Golden Tigers continue to semis
By Brannon King
For the FCT
The top-ranked Russellville Golden Tigers set a new school record for wins in a season and also moved on to the semifinal round of the Class 5A playoffs by defeating the Alexandria Valley Cubs Friday night in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Russellville Baseball Stadium.
The Golden Tigers (44-6) took game one, 3-2 in exciting fashion. They were helped by a two-run homer by Austin Bohannon to set the record. The win was anything but easy for RHS. With Cody Greenhill on the mound in a jam, Judd Ward came up with not one but two big plays in centerfield to help keep Russellville in front.
It was the top of the sixth inning when Alexandria, trailing 3-0, got a late-game rally started. The first two batters reached on singles, and then a pitch got past the catcher, moving runners to second and third. A hit then scored a run, and the Cubs had runners on second and third with no outs before Landon Oliver fielded a grounder at third base and threw the runner out at the plate as Russ Carpenter applied the tag at home. Later in the inning, Alexandria scored on a ground ball in the infield that produced an out for RHS, but the threat was still alive. With the tying run on second with two outs, Ward came up throwing after fielding a base hit to center and threw a strike to Carpenter at the plate to get the runner out and end the inning.
Just when it looked like the Golden Tigers had things in hand, Alexandria came back up in the seventh with other ideas. The Valley Cubs had runners at first and second with one out before Greenhill fielded a comebacker to the mound and threw the batter out at first, putting runners at second and third with two outs and the game on the line. It looked as though the Cubs were going to tie the game or possibly grab the lead on a low line drive to center, but Ward was positioned perfectly and came up to make the catch in the air and end the game.
“We were very fortunate tonight to win that first game,” Russellville head coach Chris Heaps said. “There were a couple of miscues that could have gone the other way. We made some great plays. The throw by Judd Ward, the catch by Judd Ward. Judd had a great night.”
The Russellville head coach was also proud of his team claiming the record for most wins in a season for RHS previously held by the 2007 team. “That’s a nice feeling; that’s icing on the cake. I’m proud of that,” Heaps said. “Coach Ward did a great job here; hats off to him. I have a lot of respect for him and what they did.”
Greenhill worked all seven innings on the mound for the win. He struck out eight batters and only walked one.
Game two went Russellville’s way by a score of 12-1. Bohannon pitched all five innings, allowing one run on four hits. He struck out seven and walked three.
RHS scored nine runs in the fifth inning to put the game away. Reed Smith and Ward led the way with two hits apiece. Oliver, Kitterman, Bohannon, Holland, Thompson and Greenhill also had hits for Russellville.
The Golden Tigers now will travel to Corner to take on the Yellow Jackets in the semifinal round of the playoffs. Games one and two will be May 13 at 5 and 7:30 p.m. with game three on Saturday at 1 p.m. if necessary. RHS defeated Corner April 2 by a 6-0 score in regular season play.