The Golden Tigers will get a chance to extend their championship record with another trip to state.

Golden Tigers go after fourth consecutive championship

By Brannon King / For the FCT

The Russellville Golden Tigers advanced the AHSAA baseball State Championship Series and will look for their fourth consecutive title after a two-game sweep of the Mortimer Jordan Blue Devils in the semifinals.

The Golden Tigers will face Faith Academy for the third-straight season in Montgomery after the Rams defeated St. Paul’s.

In front of an overflow home crowd Friday evening, Russellville took game one against Mortimer Jordan by a 12-4 score.  In game two, it was all RHS, as the Golden Tigers shut out the Blue Devils 7-0.

“Wow, wow, wow,” Russellville head coach Chris Heaps said after his team celebrated the victory on the field. “I’m super proud of our guys and super proud of our coaches.” Heaps’ team is full of competitors, and their attitude toward the game and each other is paying dividends on the field, Heaps said. The hard work everyone puts in is also a key to success.

“They believe in it, and they really want this,” Heaps added.

The Golden Tigers came out in game one against the Blue Devils wanting to prove early on that they were ready to control the series from start to finish. The Golden Tigers did just that with six runs in the first inning.

After three innings of play, the lead for starting pitcher Rudy Fernandez was 11-0. Fernandez pitched five innings and allowed four runs on four hits, with only one of the runs being earned. He struck out six batters and walked three to improve his record to 7-2.

Houston Kitterman came on in relief and pitched the game’s final two frames. Kitterman allowed no hits or walks, and he picked up two strikeouts on the mound.

Seniors Landon Ezzell and Jeff Lloyd both had three-run home runs for Russellville as the Golden Tigers batted around in the first inning. First baseman Lloyd had four RBIs and reached base three times in four at-bats.

Noah Gist and Brock Malone had three hits each, and both had doubles for RHS.

Devin Buckhalter added two hits, a run scored and one RBI to the total while Hunter Briles, Fernandez and Kitterman also had one hit apiece.

In game two, Caden Parker fought through some pain in his knee and went six innings for the win in the series clincher. He continued his mound dominance as of late with nine strikeouts. The Blue Devils managed only two hits, and the junior issued no walks.

Jaret Ward came on in the last inning to pick up the save.

Just as in the first game, Russellville got off to a fast start with the bats.

Ezzell plated Fernandez with a run scoring single, and then Malone followed with a hit to bring home another run. Catcher Hunter Briles also had a first inning RBI single, and Tom Barkley Scott drew a bases-loaded walk to make the score 4-0 after the top of the first inning.

The Golden Tigers added a run in the fourth inning when a Malone liner was caught by the shortstop, but a try for a double play went wrong for the Blue Devils, as the throw got away, allowing a Russellville run to score.

RHS picked up two more runs in the last inning. Smith picked up an RBI after a Lloyd double, and Ezzell was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

The Golden Tigers (30-14) and Faith Academy (34-3) will start their championship series with a game at Montgomery’s Paterson field Thursday at 4 p.m. Game two is scheduled for a 10 a.m. first pitch Friday morning at Riverwalk Stadium, with game three to follow right after game two if needed.

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