AHSAA Class 5A baseball state playoffs: Today's winner advances after Russell County splits quarterfinal doubleheader with two-time defending champion Spanish Fort

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerMay 4, 2012 

SPANISH FORT, Ala. -- Russell County let two-time defending Class 5A champion Spanish Fort off the hook.

The Warriors (41-11) earned a 3-1 victory over the homestanding Toros in Friday's Game 1 of a best-of-three quarterfinal series, but then stranded eight runners in a 5-4 loss to them in Game 2. The split sets up a winner-take-all Game 3 today at 2 p.m.

"We hit .360 as a team this year, same as we hit last year, but we scored 150 fewer runs," Russell County coach Tony Rasmus said. "That tells you that we're not getting big hits when we needed them. We just made too many mistakes."

In Game 2, Russell County scored two in the bottom of the seventh when Hunter Webb singled and scored on Trevor Davis' double. He moved to third on a wild pitch and then raced home when Spanish Fort catcher Shane English's throw sailed into left field.

Jesse Nelson delivered a two-out single, bringing leading hitter Rock Rucker to the plate. Spanish Fort right-hander Jesse McCord struck out Rucker to end the game.

"We showed some fight at the end," Rasmus said.

McCord dominated Game 2, hitting a

two-run homer in the first inning and then throwing a complete-game nine-hitter. He struck out five.

"We just refused to quit," Spanish Fort coach Tommy Walker said, "and that's why I'm so proud of our guys. Russell County is dang good. Best arms we've seen all year."

In Game 1, Russell County right-hander Ray Castillo scattered three hits and struck out eight to lead the Warriors to a 3-1 victory.

Spanish Fort's Blaine Crain doubled in the third and scored on Andrew Ferrell's single.

After that, Castillo dominated and struck out the final two batters of the game.

Russell County scored all the runs it needed in the first when Hunter Webb led off the game with a walk, Davis singled, and Chandler Durham delivered a two-RBI double off the left-center wall. In the fourth, Rucker launched a solo homer to right-center.

Davis had three hits in each game for the Warriors (41-11).

Rucker -- a pro prospect with a 94 mph fastball -- is expected to start today, despite suffering what appeared to be a minor leg injury while legging out an infield hit Friday.

"I don't think he's hurt any," Rasmus said.

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