Tony Rasmus saw it coming.
Rasmus -- the head baseball coach at Russell County -- knew his team, which had easily beaten Rehobeth three times during the regular season, would have trouble getting psyched up to face the Rebels in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs.
However, the Warriors were able to overcome a slow start to knock off Rehobeth, 5-2 and 11-0, to advance to next weekend's Elite 8, where Russell County (40-6) will either travel to Valley or host Marbury depending on the outcome of that series.
"(Rehobeth Game 1 pitcher Dustin Eubanks) is the guy they used to beat Satsuma (in Game 3 of their first-round series Monday)," said Rasmus, whose team has now won 32 straight games. "He pitched a pretty good game for them, but we were flat in Game 1. We played better in Game 2 because of how we played in Game 1."
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Russell County got on the board early in Game 1, plating two runs in the bottom of the first inning and two more in the third to break out to a 4-0 lead. However, Rehobeth (18-19) came back with two runs of its own in the fourth to get back to within 4-2 and the Warriors never were able to land a knockout punch.
Russell County did get an insurance run in the fifth and starting pitcher Jesse Nelson made it stand up as the Warriors picked up the 5-2 win in the opener. Nelson pitched a four-hitter, allowing two runs (both earned) and striking out 10 while walking one.
Nelson was the offensive star as well, going 2-for-2 with a double and two RBI. Hunter Webb doubled, Trevor Davis and Anfernee Grier both had a hit and an RBI and Tanner Belcher had a hit and scored a run for the Warriors.
In the nightcap, Russell County scored two runs, three runs and one run in each of the first three innings to hold a 6-0 lead after three frames. It stayed that way until the sixth, when Davis led off the inning with a solo homer and the Warriors scored two more times on three more hits to make it 9-0.
Russell County closed out the scoring with two more runs in the top of the seventh and finished the game with 13 hits and six different players had at least one hit in the romp. Davis led the way by going 3-for-3 with a double, solo homer, two RBI and scoring four runs. Webb was 3-for-4 with two doubles and three runs scored, Grier went 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored, B.J. Brooks had a hit and two RBI and Nic Griggs finished up 2-for-4 and scored a run.
Todd Dial was the beneficiary of the Warriors' offensive explosion, pitching a three-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and one walk.
"Our pitching wasn't outstanding today," said Rasmus. "But we got what we needed out of them. They did enough to keep us in the game."
When asked whether he'd rather go on the road to Valley or stay home to face Marbury in the next round, Rasmus gave a bit of an unexpected answer.
"I think I'd rather travel," said Rasmus. "That way, we're almost guaranteed to get a home game in the next round if we win. I think that'd be my preference, but if Valley does win that series, then obviously they're a better team than the one we beat four times in the regular season. I think Game 1 today was a wakeup call for us when it comes to taking teams we've already beaten lightly and we'll learn from it."
Friday at Russell County
Rehobeth 000 200 0 --2 4 3
Russell Co. 202 010 x --5 7 0
WP--Jesse Nelson. LP--Dustin Eubanks. Leading hitters--Rehobeth: Jordan Brown 1-for-3, 2B, run, RBI, Norman Metz 1-for-3, 2B, Brady Johnson 1-for-3, 2B; Russell County: Jesse Nelson 2-for-2, 2B, 2 RBI, Hunter Webb 1-for-3, 2B, Trevor Davis 1-for-2, RBI, Anfernee Grier 1-for-3, RBI, Tanner Belcher 1-for-3, run.
Russell Co. 231 003 2 --11 13 0
Rehobeth 000 000 0 --0 3 2
WP--Todd Dial. LP--Aubrey Waller. Leading hitters--Russell County: Hunter Webb 3-for-4, 2 2B, 3 runs, Trevor Davis 3-for-3, 2B, solo HR, 2 RBI, 4 runs, Anfernee Grier 3-for-5, 2B, run, B.J. Brooks 1-for-3, 2 RBI, Nic Griggs 2-for-4, run.
Records: Rehobeth 18-19, Russell County 40-6. Next: Russell County vs. Marbury/Valley (Class 5A State Quarterfinals), May 3-4