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Russellville wins second straight 5A baseball Championship
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The Russellville Golden Tigers secured their second consecutive Class 5A state baseball title Thursday night scoring eight runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to win Game 3 of the 2022 AHSAA Class 5A State Baseball Championship Series 12-2 over the Holtville Bulldogs. The Golden Tigers won Game 1 on Wednesday 2-0. Holtville (35-6) forced Game 3 Thursday afternoon winning 3-2 in Game 2 of the best-of-three series.
Russellville Coach Chris Heaps’ team won the 2021 title as well and have won five state crowns in the last seven years.
“I’m just super proud of the work they put in,” said Heaps. “I don’t have to hold them accountable. They hold each other accountable.” Reed Hill was named Class 5A Championship Series MVP, collecting three hits in four at-bats and driving in two runs in Game 3. He batted .400 (4 of 10) in the series. “Not everybody has the opportunity to win one, and we won two,” said Hill, holding back tears. “I’m just overwhelmingly happy.”
“Fourth inning. We’re down two to zero,” Heaps added. “And I stopped them in front of the dugout, and I said, ‘Listen. Y’all look at that scoreboard. And that’s the last time you’re going to look at it tonight. The scoreboard contains results, and results don’t define you. What defines you is the process that you have. There’s seven innings in this baseball game. We’ve been down before, if we play all seven innings like our hair is on fire, to the best of our ability, the results will take care of themselves.”
Golden Tigers’ starter Samuel Pace picked up the win for Russellville in Game 3 hurling a complete game, allowing six hits and two earned runs while striking out three in the rubber match of the 5A State Baseball Championship Series. Russellville led 4-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning and exploded with 10 runs to end the game in that frame. “I knew if we went to Game three my number would be called,” said Pace. “I was prepared to go out there and do what I do best.”
Tanner Potts gave Holtville the first run of the final with an RBI single to left field that scored Todd Wilson in the top of the first inning. The Bulldogs picked up their second run of the in the top of the fourth inning with a single down the right-field line from Dalton Yarroch to plate Mikey Forney and giving Holtville a 2-0 lead. Things changed quickly from that point on.
Andrew Hatton provided a one-out RBI single to right-center that drove in Nathan Brockway to cut Russellville’s deficit to one in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Golden Tigers tied the game just one batter late when Casen Heaps singled to left field that scored Brayden Spurgeon. Grayson Thorpe provided a fielder’s choice ground ball that allowed Hatton slide in under the tag at home plate for the go-ahead run. Heaps then scored on Eli Gipson’s fielder’s choice and an infield error. Holtville starter Drey Barrett was pulled after the fourth run, finishing his night allowing six hits and four runs 3 1/3 innings. Kason Shaffer came in relief, allowing no hits or walks through the fifth inning.
Canyon Pace picked up his second hit of the day with a bases-loaded single to center field in the bottom of the sixth inning that scored Heaps and Hatton, giving Russellville a 6-2 lead. Bulldogs’ reliever Cooper Mann was pulled after Pace’s two-RBI single, walking three batters in the sixth inning. Drew Connor replaced Mann and finished the remainder of the game.
Russellville continued its surge with Hill stroking a single to place two runs. Brockway drove in a run with an infield out that plated pinch-runner Brandt Cummings. Spurgeon then ripped a hit to deep to left-center that go by the outfielder driving in Hill. Spurgeon also legged all the way around the bases to score to increase the two-out lead to 11-2. Pinch hitter Banks Langston closed out the game and the championship with an RBI single with the game being called for the 10-run rule with Russellville winning 12-2.
“Not everybody has the opportunity to win one, and we got to win two” State Finals MVP reed Hill added. “It’s been a great experience, and I’m so happy I got to do it with these guys, sorry I’m going to choke up. It’s so fun, and overwhelmingly happy.”
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