Golden Tigers swing for state championship
By Brannon King for the FCT
For the third-straight year, the Russellville Golden Tigers will be playing for the Class 5A baseball state championship in Montgomery.
RHS swept Ardmore May 11 to set up a rematch against Faith Academy in the championship series. The Golden Tigers defeated the Rams last season to claim their second consecutive 5A title.
Russellville (36-9) took game one against the Ardmore Tigers by a 6-0 score behind the strong pitching of Cody Greenhill, who pitched six innings before Rudy Fernandez worked the final inning. Game two went Russellville’s way by a 7-3 final score. Ardmore jumped out to an early 2-0 advantage before Russellville came on to take the lead in the fourth inning. Chad Wray started the game on the mound for RHS, and Fernandez came on in relief before Skylar Holland ultimately closed the game out in the seventh.
Russellville head coach Chris Heaps has built a program that stands among the best in the state of Alabama, and he spoke highly of those who have helped achieve that difficult feat. “Those seats were not only full; it was standing-room-only and five, six or eight rows deep of cars,” Heaps said about the fan support in and around the Russellville Baseball Stadium. “It was a great atmosphere.
“This community is awesome; our players have been awesome; and our assistant coaches are absolutely great men,” Heaps added. “They’re hard workers, and they know a lot about baseball. They make me look like I’m better than I am, and these players are the ones that buy into us. It’s a blessing.”
In game one of the semi-finals against Ardmore, the Golden Tigers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Russellville added two more runs in the third frame and tacked on a single run in the fifth to finish the scoring. Both teams managed only three hits apiece against the late-season strong pitching of both squads. Ardmore committed three errors, while RHS only had two miscues in the field.
Skylar Holland led RHS at the plate by going 2-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Tom Barkley Scott picked up an RBI with a sacrifice-fly, and Colin Garrison had the other Russellville hit. Garrison, batting from the leadoff spot, also drew a walk and scored a run.
Ardmore chose to intentionally walk hot-hitting Cody Greenhill a couple of times in the game. Meanwhile, Judd Ward also reached base on walks, and he scored the other Russellville run.
Greenhill struck out seven Ardmore Tigers while only walking two batters for the win. Fernandez pitched the final inning of the first game, and he gave up no hits, struck out two and walked none.
The win was the first home semi-final victory by Russellville. The RHS semi-final wins in previous seasons all came on the road.
In game two, Ardmore came out swinging with the season on the line and grabbed an early advantage on the scoreboard. Russellville answered in the top of the third inning with a run and took the lead for good in the fourth inning.
AHS wouldn’t go down without a fight, and the Tigers scored a run in the sixth frame before Russellville finally finished them off with three runs in the last inning to make it.
Landon Ezzell went 3-4 with a double in the game for Russellville. The junior shortstop also stole a base and scored two runs to help the RHS cause. Judd Ward had a double on his way to a 2-3 performance with the bat. The senior centerfielder drove in two runs and walked twice.
Scott had a double, a run scored, an RBI and a walk. Meanwhile, Russ Carpenter had a hit and an RBI, and Noah Gist had a hit, a run and a walk.