The Russell County and Glenwood baseball teams won their best-of-three series in the first round of their respective state playoffs Saturday at home.
Russell County did it with a dominating sweep of Stanhope Elmore, winning 9-0 and 18-3, in the 32-team Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A bracket. Glenwood did it with a 4-0 victory in Game 3 over Northside Methodist of Dothan in the 16-team Alabama Independent School Association Class AAA.
With only one senior on the team after reaching the AHSAA Class 6A quarterfinals last year, the Warriors (34-3) showed why they deserve their No. 1 ranking in their classification as they started this year’s playoffs in style.
In Game 1, junior Logan Austin (8-1 and committed to Auburn), pitched 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball. He struck out 13 while allowing two hits and four walks.
“He was about par for the year,” said Tony Rasmus, in his 19th year as the program’s head coach, including a state title in 2005. “He’s been pretty dominant every time out.”
Hitting leaders in Game 1 were junior Zac Rice (3-for-4, run, RBI), junior Austin Embrey (2-for-4, RBI), junior Zack Henderson (2-for-3, two runs, RBI), eighth-grader Colton Wombles (2-for-4, two runs) and eighth-grader Lane Griggs (1-for-2, run, two RBI).
In Game 2, the Warriors scored 13 runs in the first inning. Their leading hitters were Rice (2-for-5, two runs, three RBI, home run), Embrey (4-for-4, RBI), Austin (2-for-4, two runs, three RBI), Wombles (3-for-3, three RBI), eighth-grader Jax Yoxtheimer (3-for-4, three RBI) and senior Trysten Dozier (2-for-3, two runs, two RBI).
“We kept at it,” Rasmus said. “Just a really good offensive day for us.”
Collecting 11 hits in Game 1 and 19 hits in Game 2, the Warriors busted out of their offensive slump.
“We really struggled down the stretch with the bats,” Rasmus said. “We came out today and really swung the bats. The cold weather usually is the great equalizer, but we were just oblivious to it.”
Embrey (6-0) earned the Game 2 victory. In 4 1/3 innings, he allowed one earned run on three hits and four walks with four strikeouts.
Russell County advanced to the Round of 16 and will play at Dothan in a doubleheader Friday at a time yet to be announced. The third game, if necessary, would be the following day.
Despite having only three seniors in the regular lineup this season after finishing as the AISA Class AAA state runner-up last season, the Gators showed remarkable poise for a relatively young team after losing Game 1 Friday 3-2.
All three runs senior pitcher Luke Davis gave up were unearned — from one error — as he took the tough-luck loss. He struck out 16 and allowed two hits and two walks in seven innings.
“That was hard to swallow,” said Glenwood coach, Tim Fanning. “But we bounced back.”
Glenwood commanded Game 2 Friday with a 15-1 victory in five innings. Leading hitters were senior Wes Johnson (2-for-3, double, triple and four RBI), senior Jacob Harper (3-for-4, double, two runs, two RBI), sophomore Kody Bence (2-for-3, double, two runs, RBI) and sophomore Trevor Horne (2-for-3, three runs, RBI).
Horne earned the win on the mound. In five innings, he allowed one run on four hits and one walk while striking out 10.
Saturday, the Gators won 4-0 in Game 3 as freshman Landon Russell threw a complete-game three-hitter with no walks and nine strikeouts.
Locked in a scoreless tie as they batted in the fifth inning, Johnson led off with a single and went to third on a double by senior Anthony Torres (2-for-3). After senior Bryce Valero was intentionally walked, juniors Trevor Crisco and Bryce Newman delivered consecutive two-run doubles for all of the game’s runs.
“I think it’s kind of a microcosm of our season,” Fanning said. “With us being real young, we’ve been up and down. Some days we just really kill the ball and some days we don’t.”
But the defense and pitching have been dependable.
“We made one error all weekend, and that cost us the first game,” Fanning said. “We struck out 35 in three games, so our pitching was really good. We just needed that timely hitting in the third game.”
Glenwood improved to 30-10, with eight of their losses by one or two runs.
Fanning, in his 16th season as the program’s head coach, has led the Gators to eight state championships. He called this his youngest team.
“It’s not the typical team we roll out there,” he said. “But talent-wise, it stacks up pretty well. … If we play well, we can play with anybody. I really like our team. They’re good kids. They work really hard. It’s just a work in progress.”
Glenwood will start its best-of-three state quarterfinal series Thursday at Tuscaloosa Academy with a doubleheader. The third game, if necessary, would be Friday. The game times weren’t available before this story’s deadline.