RHS standouts sign with Union University
Two Russellville High School senior baseball standouts made their future plans known Thursday at a scholarship signing celebration.
The two 2021 AHSAA Class 5A state championship winning teammates, catcher Canyon Pace and shortstop Eli Gipson, both signed with the Union University Bulldogs and head coach Jim Pitt.
Union is a member the Gulf South Conference of the NCAA Division II and is located in Jackson, Tenn.
For Pace, the opportunity to play at Union carries on a family tradition. His dad, Brian, also played baseball for Union after graduating from RHS.
“That meant a lot to me going in,” Canyon said. “I knew that they are in a good conference up there, and they are a good program.”
Not only does Pace excel on the baseball field – both behind the plate, catching all 48 games this past season, and with the bat – he is also an all-star in the classroom with a 4.59 grade point average.
“(Union is) good for me academically, and they are just going to help me out even after baseball,” he said.
Not only has Brian Pace been highly instrumental in the development of his son’s baseball skills, he’s also had the chance to coach Gipson in the summer. “Getting to coach both of them in summer ball … Obviously it is unique coaching your son, but having a guy like Eli – he is one of the best players in the state period,” he said. “I don’t coach; the coaching happens with Coach Heaps.”
Head coach of the Golden Tigers, Heaps and his coaching staff have a long history of developing college talent at Russellville.
“Not only are these guys really good at baseball, but both of these young men are highly respected by their teachers,” Heaps said. “They are highly respected by their community, and they are highly respected by coaches – and I’m talking about all coaches, whether it’s football coaches, baseball coaches or basketball coaches. They are respected by them, and they are respected by administrators, and they are respected by their teammates.”
Gipson is multi-sport athlete at RHS and is currently the leading scorer on the basketball team. Like Pace, he also takes his classroom work seriously, sporting a 4.12 grade point average.
In recognition for his talent on the baseball field, Gipson played in the North-South All-Star game in Montgomery this past summer.
“I love the campus,” Gipson said of Union. “I toured there and fell in love with it. It’s a Christian university, and it fits with my faith.
“The baseball program is growing, and it’s growing fast. We’re the first class that they’ve offered straight from high school, so that’s a big plus. They’re really going to work with us and give us a chance, so, that’s what we’re looking forward to.”