Sardis moves to state semifinals after sweeping Russellville

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Photo: Sardis High’s Blaze Gerhart during the Lions’ series-clinching win over Russellville in the quarterfinal round of the Class 5A state playoffs on May 5 in Sardis City. (Shannon J. Allen/Sand Mountain Reporter)

By Shannon J. Allen/Sand Mountain Reporter; Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

The hitting and pitching of Blaze Gerhart propelled the Sardis Lions into the semifinals of the Class 5A state baseball playoffs.
On Friday, May 4, Sardis (28-6) dethroned two-time defending state champion Russellville in a
state quarterfinal series, 6-4 and 4-0, in Sardis City.
The Lions visit area rival Boaz (23-13) in the best-of-three semifinal series this Friday May 12, at 5 and 7:30 p.m. An if-necessary Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m.
“The way Class 5A is set up right now, there isn’t one dominant team but a lot of really good ones,” said Sardis head coach Kevin Vinson. “So every round has been a battle. We battled our tails off against Hayden (in the first round) and Ardmore (in the second round), which I think really helped our guys get ready for this series. We’ve got a bunch of guys in our dugout who are going to scratch and claw and find a way to win, and I couldn’t be prouder to be their coach.”
Gerhart won game one with a walk-off, two-run home run he blasted over the left-field fence in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Golden Tigers scored two runs in the top of the seventh to force a 4-4 tie, setting up Gerhart’s heroics.
“All year, it’s been somebody different whose stepped up with a big hit or a big outing on the mound or a big play defensively,” said Vinson. “In that game and at that moment, it just happened to be Blaze. I couldn’t be prouder for him that he was able to come up and walk us off like he did.”
Sardis spotted Russellville a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but the Lions squad fought back, getting one run in the second and three in the fifth to build a 4-2 advantage.
Luke Weems’ two-run homer to left in the fifth erased a 2-2 tie.
Weems was the winning pitcher for the Lions, throwing a complete game. He gave up nine hits, struck out seven and walked two.
“Luke has been phenomenal all year for us,” said Vinson. “He’d be the first to tell you that he didn’t have his best stuff, but whether he has his best stuff or not, Luke is going to stay in there and battle. A of people would have gotten frustrated by being on the big stage without having his best stuff, but somebody with the character that Luke has will find a way, I couldn’t be prouder for him.”
Baylor Garrard batted 2-for-3, while Weems finished 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs. Russ Wiggs ended 2-for-4 with an RBI, and Landon Carroll doubled.
Gerhart delivered a dominant performance on the mound in game two. He mowed through Russellville’s lineup, racking up 15 strikeouts while tossing a four-hitter with one walk.
Sardis grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first behind RBI singles from Weems and Gerhart. The Lions added two insurance runs in the top of the seventh when Levi Martin and Carson Gillilan singled and Weems laid down a bunt single to load the bases.
Gerhart then stepped to the plate and doubled to center field, plating two runs for a 4-0 lead.
Gerhart slammed the door on the Golden Tigers by striking out the side in the bottom of the seventh.
“We found a few things in the first game that we thought were some weaknesses for [Russellville], and Blaze was able to take advantage of it,” said Vinson. “He was spot on. Everything we called, Blaze was able to execute. If you strikeout 15 against Russellville, that’s absolutely incredible. It was just a great outing, and hopefully he’ll have another one this week.”
For the series, Weems went 4-for-8 with a home run, two doubles, three RBI and two runs scored; Gerhart went 3-for-6 with two doubles, five RBI and a run scored; Martin and Gillilan each went 3-for-7 with three runs scored and Wiggs had two hits and an RBI.
Vinson said his players are looking forward to facing their Sand Mountain neighbors from across U.S. Highway 431.
“Most of these kids from both teams grew up playing travel ball together, so there’s a lot of familiarity. It’s something special for both communities. Boaz has a great team that is very well coached, and I expect it to be a great series.”

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