There were good and bad moments on both ends of a doubleheader between visiting Russell County and Central on Wednesday at Darnell-Nelson Field.
And even though one team picked up a sweep, both coaches were encouraged by what had taken place in the two games.
Central came from behind twice to win 8-5 and 8-6 over the Warriors, taking both ends of the doubleheader and improving its start to 12-4 on the season. Coach Roy Dixon said, despite some struggles on the mound and in the field in the second game, the fact his team came back in both — something it has done in 11 of its 12 wins this season — says a lot about its growth.
In the other dugout, despite being swept in a doubleheader for the second night in a row, Russell County coach Tony Rasmus was in good spirits about a group of players that won just two games in his absence a season ago.
“You know, I hate to say I feel good about two losses, but for us those were like a couple of wins,” Rasmus said. “There was a lot more talent in that other dugout, but our guys bust it. They’re fighting hard, and now they can learn how to do it again.”
Russell County had early advantages in both games, scoring a run in the first in game one and three in the first in game two. After giving up the advantage both times, they were still able to battle back and put themselves in position to compete late in the ballgame.
In the opener, Central scored a run in the bottom of the first to tie the game and two in the second to take a 3-1 lead. The Warriors got four back in the third, scoring one via error, two on a double by Austin Slaten and one on a single by Bubba Gorman.
A two-run homer by Central’s Slade Gorman and a solo shot by Jermond Williams in the bottom of the fifth put the Red Devils back in front, however. They added two in the sixth and hung on to win 8-5.
In the second game, Central responded to Russell County’s hot start in the first inning by pouring on five runs in the bottom half. Dalton Wilder drove in a run with a walk, Williams one with another walk and Noah Wilkes plated two with a single. Jackson Cook got the fifth run of the inning in with a sacrifice fly.
Russell County added a run in the second and two in the third — compared to Central’s one in the second — and the two teams remained tied at 6-6 until the bottom of the fifth inning.
Weston Dawson, who had a rough outing on the mound in the second game pitching to just six batters and allowing three runs before Dixon made a pitching change, came on to pinch hit for Central in the fifth. Dixon’s hunch proved critical for the Red Devils, as Dawson launched a no-doubter home run into the woods beyond left field. The home run broke the tie, and Central went on to win the game 8-6.
“Weston didn’t start off as well pitching the ball, but we felt like in that situation he could come up and do some damage for us,” Dixon said. “He got a good pitch to hit and was able to break the tie and put us in a position to win the game.”
The come-from-behind wins are encouraging to Dixon, who said that despite his team’s youth, it is learning a level of resilience that can be vital down the stretch this season.
“Jokingly, I say that maybe we’re just too dumb to quit,” he said. “We’ve worked hard for a year, and it’s starting to pay off a little bit.”
And while Russell County is nowhere near the powerhouse it once was, Rasmus sees plenty to like about his scrappy squad.
“You know, my wife said to me after a couple losses that she didn’t see me out there yelling and fussing or anything, and she said it looked like maybe I didn’t care,” Rasmus explained. “I said, no, that stuff is to get players motivated. I don’t need to do that with these guys. These guys are trying hard to win. It means something to them.”
Wednesday at Darnell-Nelson Field
Russell County 104 000 0—5 6 0
Central 120 032 x—8 11 2
WP—Noah Wilkes. LP—Tanner Belcher. S—Ethan Baber. Leading hitters—Russell County, Anthony Ward 2-4, 2 Rs, Michael Gayles 1-4, RBI, Casey Cox 2-3, R, Austin Slaten 1-3, 2B, 2 RBIs, Bubba Gorman 1-3, RBI; Central, Dakota Pittman 1-4, RBI, Evan Baber 2-3, 3B, 2 RBIs, 2 Rs, Slade Gorman 3-4, 2B, HR, 3 RBIs, 2 Rs, Jay Baker 1-4, 2B, RBI, Jermond Williams 2-3, HR, R.
Russell County 312 000 0—6 5 1
Central 510 011 x—8 7 3
WP—Dalton Wilder. LP—Peyton Alexander. S—Keegan Loftin. Leading hitters—Russell County, Nathan Boger 1-3, 3B, R; Central, Pittman 2-3, 2 Rs, Slade Gorman 1-3, R, RBI, Wilder 1-1, 2B, RBI, Jermond Williams 0-2, 2 RBIs, Noah Wilkes 1-2, 2 RBIs, Weston Dawson 1-1, HR, RBI. Records—Russell County, 7-11; Central, 12-4. Next—Russell County, Saturday at Dadeville; Central, Saturday vs. Shaw.