Photo: Brennan Stokes (left) and Brock Ford helped Southside post a 4-1 win over Russellville in game three of the teams’ Class 5A second round baseball series last Saturday (Apr. 27). (Chris McCarthy/Messenger file photo)
By Craig Thomas/Florence Times Daily
For the first time since 2014, Russellville won’t be part of the Class 5A state championship baseball series.
That’s because Southside defeated the Golden Tigers. 4-1, last Saturday (Apr. 27) in game three of the teams’ second round playoff series.
Southside hosts Springville in the third round beginning with a double header on Friday, May 3. It is the Panthers’ first quarterfinal appearance since 2016, when they made it to the semifinal round.
With Russellville down 3-0 in the second inning, senior Tanner James replaced Rowe Gallagher and held the Panthers (25-13) to one run in five and two-third innings. But the Golden Bears stranded 11 base runners.
Southside’s Tyler Roberts threw six innings to earn the win. Lane Roberts pitched the seventh in relief.
It looked like Russellville (18-18) might have a rally in the bottom of the seventh as Cole Barnett led off with a single. But Jackson Lindsey hit a hard liner that Southside second baseman Brock Ford caught with a dive, and after taking off for second Barnett couldn’t get back to first in time and was doubled off.
Gordon White grounded out to third to end the game.
Southside trailed Corner by six runs in a third game in the first round and rallied for an 8-6 win, and first-year coach Shane Chappell said that made a difference.
“Russellville has been the premier program. They still are, really, in our opinion. Coach [Chris] Heaps does an unbelievable job and there’s a reason they’ve won so much. But our guys were the better team today. We could play them 10 times and they (might) beat us more than we (beat them), but today where it was important we had to be a little bit better and we were a little bit better today.”
On Friday, one big inning for each team proved to be the difference in each game as the teams split the doubleheader. A five-run first inning paved the way for Southside’s 6-3 win in the opener, while Russellville got four runs in the top of the second inning of the night cap en route to a 4-0 victory to even the series.
Russellville could not overcome the early 5-0 deficit in the opener. The Panthers sent 10 batters to the plate in the frame, taking advantage of four walks, including two with the bases loaded.
Southside had runners at first and third with one out before an intentional walk to cleanup hitter Jacob Little loaded the bases. Back-to-back walks, followed by a hit batter gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead before Ford drove in two more runs with a double to left field.
After getting out of the inning, Russellville pitcher Caden Parker recovered to retire 12 of the next 15 batters and hold the visitors scoreless for six straight innings. The Golden Tigers, however, could not catch up.
Hunter Briles’ two-run home run in the bottom of the third inning briefly cut into the lead. The shot to left center also scored Will Rogers, who reached on a one-out double.
In the bottom of the sixth, Russellville added another run and had the tying run in scoring position before Little pitched out of the jam for Southside. Consecutive singles by Cole Barnett and Gordon White put two runners on base before Canyon Pace drove in both runs with a two-out double down the right line. With runners at second and third, however, Little got a strikeout to end the threat.
The Panthers added an insurance run in the top of the seventh. A sacrifice fly by Toren Snow gave Southside a 6-3 lead. Russellville could not answer in the bottom of the frame.
Both teams had seven hits in the opener.
Ford and Connor Johnson led Southside with two hits each.
The Golden Tigers did all of their scoring in the bottom of the second inning of the second game. With one out and runners at first and third, consecutive bunt singles by Rogers and Nate Green gave Russellville a 2-0 lead. Briles later drew a bases-loaded walk before a sacrifice fly by Barnette made the score 4-0.
Gordon White did the rest from the mound. The sophomore took a no-hitter into the fourth inning and finished with a four-hit shutout.
The Golden Tigers were held to just five hits in the nightcap. Ford again led Southside with a 2-for-2 showing.
“We got the lead in the first game and were able to hold on,” said Chappell. “Jacob did a good job of keeping them off balance. It was also very important for us to add that run in the top of the seventh inning. The second game was the same story for us all year. We have not played well in a doubleheader yet. We hit way too many fly balls and didn’t make adjustments at the plate.”