No. 7 Hartselle eliminates No. 8 Russellville despite Baird's game-tying RBI double

By Staff
Todd Thompson
For the FCT
HARTSELLE – No. 8 Russellville got the attention of six-time state champion Hartselle Friday night, but it wasn't enough to keep the Golden Tigers' season alive.
Seventh-ranked Hartselle ended Russellville's year by beating the Golden Tigers 17-7 and 6-5 in eight innings Friday night in the Class 5A quarterfinals at Rueben Sims Field.
Russellville finished the year 35-14, while Hartselle improved to 34-9 overall.
Hartselle will face the winner of the Cullman-Athens quarterfinal series next weekend in the Class 5A playoffs. The two teams split on Friday to force a deciding game on Saturday.
"Our eight seniors have a lot to be proud of," Russellville coach David Ward said. "They've been a part of 104 wins over the last three years. It's tough to see them leave. With the exception of summer vacation, we spend almost every day together. It's like they're my own kids."
Russellville had eight seniors on the field Friday night, and Ward expects every one of them will get the opportunity to play college baseball next year.
And that experience kept the Golden Tigers from folding after losing the opening game of the series with a 10-run mercy rule. Instead, Russellville was intent on forcing a third-and-deciding game with Hartselle.
"I felt good about our chances if we could make it to Saturday," Ward said.
Hartselle had 24 hits in the series, including 15 in the opening game.
"They hit the ball a lot better than a lot of teams we played this year," Ward said. "They've really got a shot at winning it all. We knew that Hartselle had the arms, but they've got a lot of hitters, too."
Hartselle stung the Golden Tigers for eight runs in the opening inning of the first game, chasing sophomore starter Jake Ward from the mound with eight runs.
The Golden Tigers used four different pitchers in the opener, but couldn't keep Hartselle in check.
Caleb Mitchell had a bases-loaded triple for Russellville in the second inning as the Golden Tigers trimmed Hartselle's lead to 8-5.
But Hartselle scored three runs in the second and added three more in both the fifth and sixth innings to secure the victory.
"Russellville's very, very good," said Hartselle coach William Booth, the winningest coach in Alabama high school history. "We didn't underestimate them. We knew that they were that good.
"We just knew that it was going to be a war."
Garrett Turrentine's two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth – his eighth home run of the season – ended the game with a 10-run margin.
Chad Girodo earned the win for Hartselle despite struggling early in the game. The junior lefthander allowed nine hits and seven earned runs, but got enough offensive support to pick up his eighth win of the season in 12 decisions.
Jake Ward took the loss after being charged with eight earned runs while pitching just 1/3 of an inning before he was replaced.
Mitchell finished 3-for-4 for Russellville, while senior cleanup hitter Jacob Daniel and senior catcher Torey Baird both added solo homers. Baird finished with 10 homers this season.
Junior Seth Rhudy, freshman John Batchelor and senior Corey Flanagan all had singles for Russellville.
Russellville led 2-0 in the second game with a sacrifice fly by Mitchell and an RBI single by Jake Ward.
But Hartselle – using an offensive attack that has posted 54 runs in its last four playoff games – took the lead with four runs on four hits in the top of the third inning.
Will Chappell and Turrentine singled to open the third. An error by Russellville allowed one run to score and Zack Waddell followed with an RBI single. Luke Bole capped the inning with a two-run double down the right field line and later scored on a wild pitch.
Hartselle added to the lead in the fourth when Turrentine hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Ryan Joy.
Russellville trimmed the lead with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning with three hits. Mitchell led off with a triple and scored on a double by Flanagan, and Baird drove in the second run of the inning with a single to cut the gap to 5-4.
Bates struck out the first two Russellville batters he faced in the bottom of the seventh inning but walked Daniel to put the winning run at the plate, and Baird kept Russellville's hopes alive with a two-strike double that scored Daniel, tying the game. Bates then ended the threat with a short popup.
Bole doubled to open the eighth inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Nic Howard. Bole scored the go-ahead run on a contested balk by senior righthander Cory Trapp, who went the distance for Russellville.
Bates retired the side in the bottom half of the inning to pick up his 13th win of the season.

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