A golden three-peat

Russellville claims third consecutive state championship

By Brannon King – For the FCT

When traveling to Montgomery for three straight years to play for the Class 5A baseball state championship, the Russellville Golden Tigers do not need directions to find their way to Paterson Field and Riverwalk Stadium. However, they had their sights set on picking up a map for the trip home – and it came in the form of a blue map trophy that is awarded to the state champs.

For the third consecutive year, RHS came away with that blue map as the Golden Tigers defeated the Faith Academy Rams in the best-of-three championship series to claim the state title.

Russellville took game one at Paterson Field May 17 by a 9-1 score behind the usual dominating performance on the mound of eventual 5A series MVP Cody Greenhill. On the following day, the scene shifted to Riverwalk Stadium, the home of the Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League of Professional Baseball. Russellville looked to be on the way to finishing off the Rams for the second year in a row, but the team from Mobile had other ideas. Trailing 7-5 in their last at-bat, the Rams scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to force a game three.

The final game saw RHS jump out to a 7-0 lead, and the Golden Tigers held on to win by a 7-4 final score.

“I’m proud for our community, for our school and for these seniors,” Russellville head coach Chris Heaps said after the deciding game. “It’s just a huge accomplishment for our program to three-peat. We had a saying in ’15 – uncommon effort yields uncommon results – and we’ve reached another uncommon result. I can’t be prouder of our players and our community.”

When asked to compare the three championships, Greenhill said this particular one was the most special to him. “This one took a lot more hard work and dedication. Being the leaders, we had to step up and pick the younger guys up, and in the past, we were the ones getting picked up. This one’s a lot more special,” Greenhill explained.

Russellville (38-10) cruised in game one to a 9-1 win as Greenhill allowed two hits and one unearned run while striking out 11 for a complete-game win in his final start on the mound for RHS. The senior right-hander outdueled Reece Ewing, who got the start for Faith Academy.

Greenhill also helped his own cause by driving in two runs with the bat on a double. Skylar Holland, who went 7-for-9 in the series at the plate, was 3-3 in game one with an RBI. RHS also got two hits each from Landon Ezzell and Russ Carpenter. Colin Garrison had a hit and two RBIs, while Judd Ward and Houston Kitterman also had hits in the game.

The Golden Tigers trailed 5-1 in game two before scoring four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie the score. RHS added two runs in the sixth to take the lead, but Faith rallied with three runs of their own in the seventh and held Russellville scoreless in the bottom of the frame to send the series to the decisive third game.

Chad Wray got the start on the mound for RHS in game two and went six innings. He struck out nine and allowed five runs, with 4 of them being earned. Rudy Fernandez and Holland came on in relief of Wray, with Holland taking the loss to Braxton Bell of Faith.

Gabe Shepard started the game for the Rams and worked four innings before being replaced by Jamison Morris and Bell.

Holland went 3-4 at the plate in the game for RHS with three RBIs. Tom Barkley Scott had two hits in the contest and added two RBIs on a double. Garrison also had two hits for RHS, and he scored a run. Ward had a hit and scored three runs, while Greenhill and Ezzell also hit safely.

In game three, Holland got the start on the mound, and the senior got the win. He went six innings and allowed two runs on five hits. The right-hander struck out four and only walked one batter. Judd Ward and Fernandez pitched in relief, with Fernandez getting the final out.

Garrison had a triple and scored two runs for RHS in the game. Noah Gist and Holland picked up doubles for Russellville. Ward and Greenhill had two hits each, with Greenhill driving in two runs and Ward scoring twice. Kitterman was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, and Scott had two hits and an RBI. Ezzell also had two RBIs for Russellville.

 

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