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RETURNING TO STATE

The Russellville Golden Tigers are headed back to Montgomery to play for the 2021 AHSAA Class 5A baseball state championship.

RHS went to Madison Academy for the semifinal round May 12-13 and took two of three games in the series from the Mustangs at Mike Good Field to advance to the finals against Pike Road.

The Golden Tigers won the opener by a 6-4 score and fell later that evening in game two by a 9-4 total. Russellville came back the following day and took the rubber match 8-2.

This will be the fifth appearance in the 5A state championship series for RHS since 2015 under head coach Chris Heaps. The Golden Tigers defeated Helena during their first trip to Montgomery and followed that up with title wins over Faith Academy in 2016 and 2017. The Rams got over the hump against RHS the following season and won the blue map.

“I’m proud of these guys, and I love them,” Heaps said after the game three win over Madison Academy. “There are so many different characters; there are so many different talents; and the biggest thing is that they all come together for one thing: ‘We’ is greater than ‘me.’”

In game one versus Madison Academy, Russellville had a balanced offensive attack along with solid pitching and defense.

Emitt Green was the starter on the mound, and he got the win going 5.1 innings. The junior right-hander allowed four runs, with three of them being earned. Green gave up five hits, struck out four batters and walked one.

Samuel Pace came on in relief and got the save. Pace allowed one hit during 1.2 innings.

Kai Watson was the Madison Academy starter, and he took the loss.

Jackson Lindsey, Reed Hill and Cole Barnett led Russellville with two hits each. Canyon Pace, Lindsey and Barnett all doubled, and Barnett had three RBIs.

Hill also drove in a run, and Casen Heaps had a hit and two RBIs. Grayson Thorpe joined the hit column with a single.

Game two saw Madison Academy jump out to a 5-0 lead before Russellville answered with a run in the bottom half of the third on a Lindsey RBI double off starter Avery Seaton.

The Mustangs added to their lead with a single run in the fourth and three more in the seventh. RHS scored three runs of their own in the fifth and got a couple of runners on base in the game’s final inning but failed to push any additional runs across the plate.

Canyon Pace had two hits for Russellville, and Barnett added a hit, walk and two RBIs.

Nick Smith doubled, drove in a run and scored one. Eli Gipson had a single and two walks and scored twice.

Rowe Gallagher was the RHS starting pitcher, going 2.2 innings. Gallagher was followed in relief by Pace and Brayden Heaps.

Casen Heaps injured his shoulder in the game’s seventh inning on a diving attempt to catch a fly ball in the outfield and was unable to continue.

Gordon White took the ball in game three and, for the second time in the playoffs, pitched a gem with the season on the line. White worked all seven innings for a complete-game victory.

He needed 99 pitches to get the job done, and the senior struck out three.

Russellville played errorless defense, while the Mustangs had five miscues.

Matt Manley got the start for Madison Academy, and Brandon Yeager took the loss. Future Auburn Tiger Alex Wade made a relief appearance and was 5-for-9 in the series with the bat for the Mustangs.

Smith smacked three hits, including a double, and also had an RBI for Russellville. Hill and Barnett each had two hits, with Barnett picking up a double. Hill had two RBIs, and the duo of Thorpe and Andrew Hatton had a hit and an RBI each.

Russellville (40-7) faced the Pike Road Patriots (29-9) at Montgomery’s Paterson Field May 17, with game two and the “if necessary” game three at Riverwalk Stadium May 18. Results were not complete prior to press deadline.

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