By Joseph Myers
Special to the Ledger-Enquirer
Russell County used big innings in each game to sweep Marbury, 7-4 and 7-0, in a Class 5A state playoff quarterfinal doubleheader Friday night in Seale.
With the wins, third-ranked Russell County (42-6) now advances to the state semifinals next weekend. The Warriors will face either No. 1 Spanish Fort or Brookwood.
"The kids have wanted to play Spanish Fort all year," said Russell County head coach Tony Rasmus, whose team has now won 34 straight games. "We had to try and get them to not look past Marbury. Everybody told our kids that Marbury was no good and just a Class 3A program coming up to Class 5A. Well, I can tell you they have some talented players."
The 34 straight wins matches a school record set by the Warriors' 2005 team that won a Baseball America national championship.
In the opener, Marbury (21-13) got a three-run homer in the top of the first inning to go up 3-0, but the Warriors got single runs in the first and third to trim the deficit to 3-2. Russell County broke through for three runs in the fourth to go up 5-3 and added two insurance runs in the sixth to make it 7-4 and close out the scoring.
Jesse Nelson pitched a complete game to earn the victory, giving up four runs (three earned) on three hits with eight strikeouts, three walks and three hit batsmen.
Russell County never trailed in Game 2, plating a run in the top of the first. It stayed 1-0 until the sixth, when the Warriors brought home an insurance run to go up 2-0. Russell County removed all doubt as to the outcome in the top of the seventh, scoring five more runs to take a 7-0 lead and cruise to the victory.
Todd Dial earned the win, throwing five shutout innings and allowing two hits while striking out seven and walking three. Will Ziebol struck out three and walked one over the final two innings to get the save.
"(DIal) is at his best when he has runners on base," said Rasmus. "He threw really well when he did have baserunners, which was in a lot of innings. He just had a blister pop and that's why we went ahead and pulled him. He wanted to stay in, but we had (Ziebol) fresh and there was no sense sending him back out there."
Friday at Russell County
Class 5A State Playoffs
Russell County 7, Marbury 4
WP--Jesse Nelson. LP--Wallace Henry. Leading hitters--Marbury: Taylor Spires 1-for-3, 3-run HR, 3 RBI. Russell County: Hunter Webb 1-for-3, 2B, RBI, run, Trevor Davis 1-for-3, run, Trent Belcher 2-for-2, RBI, run, Anfernee Grier 1-for-4, 2 RBI, Tanner Belcher 1-for-3, run, Coleson Taylor 1-for-1, RBI.
Russell County 7, Marbury 0
WP--Todd Dial. LP--Jared Nixon. SV--Will Ziebol. Leading hitters--Russell County: Hunter Webb 2-for-4, 2B, 2 runs; Trevor Davis, 2-for-4, RBI, run, Jesse Nelson 2-for-4, 2B, 3 RBI.
Records: Marbury 21-13, Russell County 42-6. Next: Russell County vs. Spanish Fort/Brookwood (Class 5A State Semifinals), May 10-11