By Chad Dixon
The first game of the Russell County (34-3, 4-1) and Daphne series on April 20 is what you expect from the first round of the Class 6A playoffs. Low scoring, hits at a premium and excellent defense. The Warriors’ Hunter Milam and Daphne’s Caleb Harlan were locked in a 0-0 tie through five innings allowing a combined three hits.
“I thought Hunter Milam was spectacular yet again. He wasn’t flawless, but he gave us a chance by the way he battled. There are some good pitchers in this area and in this state but none better than Hunter. I’ve coached a few first round players and he is right there in that group talent-wise,” said Russell County Head Coach Tony Rasmus.
It was all about true outcomes for Milam in the first inning. He walked two and struck out three. The Warriors would finally break-up the shut out in the bottom of the sixth. Zac Rice started the inning with a single to center. Hunter Donaldson then laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Rice to second base. During the play, Rice advanced to third on a throwing error. Zane Faulk grounded out to short stop in the next at-bat to score Rice and give the Warriors a 1-0 lead.
Milam found danger in the top of the seventh. He allowed two hits and walk to load the bases with only one out. The 1-0 series advantage was on the line for both teams. The count would go full with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second. Milam struck out the Daphne batter for the second out. In the same play, the runner at third would drift off of third and get caught in a 2-5-2 rundown to end the game and give Russell County a 1-0 win.
Rasmus indicated there was no thought of turning the game over to the bullpen.
“He’s our guy and we were going to win it or lose it with him on that mound. What a gutsy pitch with three balls and two strikes, tying run on third, with the bases loaded to bury a curveball in the dirt. (It was a) huge pitch!”
Milam struck out 14 Daphne hitters, allowed four hits and walked four over seven complete innings. Zack Henderson and Trysten Dozier also had hits for the Warriors. Rice scored the lone run.
Logan Austin struck out 12 in game two through 6 1/3rd innings. He held Daphne to one unearned run on one hit. Kobe Van Bogart notched the two-out save in a 4-1 win. He struck out two batters using 12 pitches. Austin walked to start the top of the fourth and scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Dozier later in the inning to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead.
Rice and Donaldson hit consecutive doubles to start the top of the fifth. Rice scored later in the inning on a passed ball. Jackson Huguley doubled home Donaldson later in the inning to extend the lead to three. Joseph Wade added a run with a triple in the top of the sixth. Austin Embrey was 2-for-3 with a run scored.
Two of the best teams in the state match up at Russell County High School on April 27 at 5:30 p.m. ET for a double header. The No. 1 ranked Warriors hosts the No.3 ranked Saraland Spartans (28-9, 8-0). Saraland’s coach Brett Boutwell is coming off his 300th win as a coach. The Spartans defeated Park Crossing 11-1, 11-4 last weekend in the state tournament.