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Golden Tigers advance after St. Clair sweep

The Russellville Golden Tigers continued their quest for another AHSAA Class 5A baseball state championship with a round two sweep of the St. Clair County Saints.

RHS traveled to Odenville for two games April 29 and took the opener by a 4-1 score before eliminating the St. Clair County team in game two of the best-of-three series by a 10-0 total in six innings.

So far in the 2022 playoffs, the Golden Tigers have a 4-0 record and have outscored their opponents by a total of 47-1.

“The pitching performance was incredible, and we had a lot of guys that had hits,” said Russellville head coach Chris Heaps. “The pitching performance has been really good, and we’ve got other guys that need to pitch, but we can save them for whenever we need them as long as they keep pitching like that.

“I’m really proud of our guys, and our coaches did a great job. Our preparation this week was incredible, and we just focused really well.”

In game one versus the Saints, St. Clair County took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. That score held until the top of the fifth, when Russellville’s Andrew Hatton came home on a wild pitch to tie the game.

The two teams were even going into the final seventh inning.

Grayson Thorpe led things off with a double and then moved to third on an Eli Gipson sacrifice bunt. Canyon Pace followed and put RHS up 2-1 with an RBI single.

Later in the frame, Reed Hill brought home an insurance run with a double, and Hatton picked up an RBI the hard way by being hit with a pitch with the bases loaded.

Russellville’s Ethan Oliver was three-for-three in the contest, including a double.

Banks Langston continued his strong game-one pitching by going the contest’s first 6 1/3 innings. The junior threw 100 pitches and allowed one unearned run. He gave up six hits, struck out five batters and walked none for the win.

Brayden Spurgeon got the last two outs for the save on seven pitches, allowing no hits or walks.

Conner Whitfield was the starter for St. Clair County. He went 6 2/3 innings, allowing the four runs, with three being earned.

Game two was all Russellville from start to finish. The Golden Tigers jumped out to a 2-0 first-inning lead on RBI singles from Canyon Pace and Ethan Oliver. Thorpe then picked up an RBI single in the second.

Three more runs were added by RHS in the fourth, with Gipson bringing a run home with a single and Pace adding two more RBIs with a double.

Russellville finished off the night with a four-run sixth inning. A Gipson single and RBI got the score to 7-0 before Brayden Heaps picked up an RBI single and an Oliver single scored two.

Oliver was a combined five-for-five on the entire day with three RBIs, and he walked twice.

In game two, Thorpe had three hits for RHS, including a triple. Casen Heaps, Gipson, Pace and Oliver had two hits each, while Brayden Heaps, Shayden Romans and Hatton had one hit apiece.

Logan White got the start and the win on the mound, going all six innings. He continued his outstanding pitching work by allowing only one hit. The junior lefty struck out 12 and walked no St. Clair County batters.

The lone hit by the Saints came from the bat of their starting pitcher, Jake Mickens.

Russellville is now 29-11 on the season and will host Leeds in the quarterfinal round Friday at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., with game three Saturday if necessary. The Green Wave is 28-8 on the year and defeated Ardmore in round one and Hayden in round two. Leeds finished the regular season ranked fifth in 5A, while Russellville was ranked one spot better in fourth.

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