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RHS beats MS 2-1 in series

MUSCLE SHOALS, RUSSELLVILLE — There is never any love lost between the Russellville Golden Tigers and the Muscle Shoals Trojans.

The two teams have been facing each other for years, and the rivalry transcends every sport played by the two schools.

The two schools also share regions in most if not all sports, so that only adds that much more importance to the games played between the institutions.

The Golden Tigers’ baseball team did not have the kind of season players and fans hoped for last season, but under new head coach Chris Heaps, the team has been performing more to its ability this year.

Winning a series 2-1 against the Trojans is never a bad thing for the Golden Tigers, and the region wins help Russellville out in the area standings as well.

The Golden Tigers came back strong and won game two 10-7 and game three 5-1 in Russellville after being downed 7-2 away at Muscle Shoals.

Home field advantage appeared to be big in this series, as the home team won each of the games.

Things went from bad to worse for Russellville in game one in a hurry. Jordan Gist scored on an error by the catcher in the top of the first, but the Trojans answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning.

Muscle Shoals scored enough runs to win the game, as it turns out, in the second when the team added five insurance runs to its tally.

Luke Harris hit a sac fly that scored Isaac Fleming in the top of the sixth, but Muscle Shoals had already added its seventh and final run by that point.

The last two innings remained scoreless, and the Trojans picked up the win in game one.

Austin Kitterman and Jacob Green combined for the six innings pitched for Russellville. Kitterman went 4.2 innings, giving up one run on three hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

Green allowed six runs and four hits with three strikeouts and three walks in 1.1 innings of work.

Game two started off much better for the Golden Tigers. The bats came to life on offense and the defense remained stingy through most of the game.

Russellville had two double plays in the contest, including a solo by Logan Ezzell when he plucked a line drive from right above the ground on the first base line and turned around for the force on the runner at first.

The Trojans took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but Russellville answered in the bottom of the inning when Jackson Smith advanced to home on a wild throw.

The Golden Tigers would go up 4-1 in the bottom of the second thanks to a RBI single by Smith that scored Kitterman, a run batted in by Ezzell that brought in Kaleb Daniel and Smith once again scored on a wild throw.

Muscle Shoals narrowed the gap to 4-3 in the third, but only for half an inning. The two teams combined for seven runs in the third inning, which seemed to take almost an hour to play.

The five-run third for the Golden Tigers started with a single by Gist and a walk by Kitterman.

Trevor Malone sacrificed the runners over on a bunt, followed by a RBI single by Daniel to center field that scored Gist.

Kitterman took home on a wild pitch shortly thereafter, and then Smith doubled to center field on a line drive that put Daniel on third base.

Daniel reached home on a wild pitch, and then a single by Jacob Seal put runners on the corners. Seal advanced on a wild pitch during the next at-bat.

Ezzell came to the plate next, and on the fourth pitch he hit a line drive to the left field wall that scored both Smith and Seal.

Russellville’s 9-3 lead was the largest of the game, but Muscle Shoals was not out yet. The Trojans scored three in the top of the fifth to once again narrow the gap.

This scoreline remained until a RBI single by Malone brought in Gist in the bottom of the sixth.

Muscle Shoals would score one more time in the top of the seventh, but the pitching of Landon Smothers and then Seal got the Golden Tigers out of a jam.

“I told our guys this game was a must win,” Heaps said. “It feels great to win the game.

“We gave up too many walks, but we hit enough to overcome our mistakes. Ezzell has been clutch for us, and Harris did well on the mound.”

Harris pitched for four innings, giving up six runs on four hits with four strikeouts and six walks.

Game two lasted three hours, so the nightcap did not start until 8 p.m. or so Monday night.

This did not phase the Golden Tigers, who finished strong with a 5-1 win to take the series 2-1.

The runs for Russellville came when Kitterman advanced to home on a wild pitch in the bottom of the second, another two-RBI double by Ezzell in the third, a RBI single by Blake Hyde and a sacrifice for a RBI by Malone in the sixth.

Seal was the winning pitcher in game three. He threw for six innings, giving up one run and only two hits with four strikeouts and six walks.

The Golden Tigers are now 18-10 on the year and half a series coming up against Athens this Friday and Saturday.