RHS aims to repeat as state champs

By Brannon King

For the FCT

The Russellville baseball team earned another trip to Montgomery to play for the Class 5A state championship by winning two exciting games on the road against the Corner Yellow Jackets Friday in front of a packed stadium.

The Golden Tigers (46-6) took game one 5-0 behind a strong pitching performance from junior Cody Greenhill. The right-hander threw a complete game shutout and allowed only one hit. He struck out 11 and did not walk any batters.

Russellville got on the board first in the third inning when Judd Ward picked up an RBI on a single.  Austin Bohannon then knocked in a run to give RHS a two-run advantage. The Golden Tigers finished the game strong when Colin Garrison scored in the seventh inning, followed by another Ward RBI hit and a RBI double by Austin Kitterman.

Ward’s three hits led the way for RHS. Kitterman (2), Bohannon (2), Reed Smith (1), Landon Oliver (1) and Garrison (1) also had hits for Russellville.

Game two also went Russellville’s way, 4-3. Senior Bailey Thompson came on in relief in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and no outs with RHS leading 4-2 and worked out of it, allowing no runs in the inning. He retired the first batter he faced on a comebacker that the lefty fielded and threw home to catcher Russ Carpenter for the force-out at the plate. Thompson then struck out the next batter, looking for out number two. Then Bohannon stayed with a pop-up to first base that he bobbled but grabbed for the third out.

Corner would not go easily though. The Golden Tigers found themselves in another jam in the sixth inning. The Yellow Jackets led off the inning with a bunt single that was followed by a wild pitch and a walk to put runners on first and second with no outs.

Kitterman came on in relief, and after another Corner bunt, runners were at second and third with one out. An RBI single cut the lead to one run and put runners on the corners. The Yellow Jackets decided to try the bunt again, but RHS was ready for it, and the squeeze play failed as a hard-charging Greenhill caught the ball in the air and then doubled off the runner at third to end the inning.

Smith (2), Ward (2) and Landon Ezzell (1) had hits in the game for RHS, while Oliver had two RBIs against Corner ace pitcher and Ole Miss signee, Jackson Tavel.

Bohannon went four innings on the mound for RHS and picked up the win. Thompson and Kitterman worked in relief, with Kitterman picking up the save.

The performance on the mound by Thompson brought back memories of last season’s playoff run for Russellville head coach Chris Heaps. “Bailey Thompson, last year against Boaz, came in and got a save and a win. He comes in a situation where he had not thrown a pitch, he’s got no outs, bases loaded and gets out of that. That’s unbelievable.”

Heaps also gave credit to the entire pitching staff that has been so strong the entire season. “I can’t say enough about our pitching staff; it’s been good all year. I just need it to be good one more series.”

That series will be a best-of-three in Montgomery against Faith Academy, which will take place May 19-20. The Golden Tigers will be trying to win back-to-back baseball state championships.

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