By Chad Dixon
Russell County’s Warriors Hunter Milam (9-0) threw a no-hitter on April 11 on the road against Dothan in game two of a double header to clinch the Warriors’ 14th area title in a 10-0 victory. The Warriors came into the season with only four seniors and one junior. Coach Tony Rasmus knew he would have to develop a young team.
“When I sit and look at taking a baseball program from the ground up to be able to compete, you set goals and have to understand that those goals take time to see to fruition. When I went to Florence, it ended at Russell County. I believe they went like 1-30 or something to that effect. When you come back, you know you’ve got to start from the absolute bottom,” said Rasmus.
The 2018 Warriors’ line-up is littered with over-achieving sophomores.
“I said a few years back that we would start winning this year. Our goal for last year was making the playoffs. We accomplished that. This year the goal was to win the area and we did that. I feel pretty confident in our ability here at Russell County to take a young kid and develop him. And that’s just what we have done with our sophomore class,” Rasmus added.
Second baseman Hunter Donaldson was 3-for-5 in an 11-2 win over Dothan in game one. He has been the Russell County igniter all season. He leads the team with 26 walks and is third on the team, in a lead-off role, with 27 RBI. He has batted .321 with an .837 on-base plus slugging.
Donaldson started a seven-run first inning for Russell County with a single past second base in game one. Zane Faulk then reached on an error, Jackson Huguley singled to load the bases. Donaldson scored on a passed ball and Logan Austin hit a two-run double to give the Warriors a 3-0 lead. Trysten Dozier and Donaldson had RBI singles in the inning.
Austin (8-1) would need no more run support. He pitched 6 2/3rd innings, allowed two earned runs on four hits and struck out 12 Dothan batters. He lowered his ERA to 1.83 and WHIP to 0.85. He now leads the team with 98 strikeouts.
Not to be outdone, Milam struck out 12 in game two using 84 pitches. He threw 18 first pitch strikes to the 21 batters he faced. He went six innings. He has 79 k’s over 41 1/3rd innings on the season. His ERA is now 2.61 and WHIP is 1.21.
Huguley hit a grand slam in an eight-run fifth inning for the Warriors. Zac Rice was 2-for-2, scored twice, doubled and drove in a pair. Donaldson was 1-for-3 with two RBI.
The Warriors are ranked as the number one team in Class 6A according to the Alabama Sportswriters Association. They have a 34-3 record for the season and were 4-1 is Class 6A Area 4 games. They have also landed in the Top 25 USA Today poll.
“Accomplishing all those things just means we have come a long way in just a few years. That speaks to the year round work our baseball coaches are committed to and also the sacrifices our kids make to be at this high school weight room all summer, all fall, all winter and then all spring. That’s in addition to the hours our kids spend working on their baseball games,” Rasmus stated.
“So I sit here today extremely proud of our program, our kids and our coaches. Nobody on the outside knows or can fathom the work that goes into this baseball team. We sit here today as area champs with eight sophomores starting. Basically we are a JV team age-wise. It’s a big deal!”
Russell County will host Daphne High School on April 20 at 5:30 p.m. ET for a double header to open the playoffs. If a third game is necessary, it will start at noon on Saturday.
“We will certainly be the underdog in every series beginning with a veteran Daphne team who is coached by Coach Mike Goff, who has been in pro ball for better than 20 years and another in Coach Ronnie Powell, who is in the Alabama Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. Coach Powell was my college coach and the one person I owe every bit of my baseball knowledge to. Without him there would be no Rasmus in pro ball or a baseball program with 500 plus wins here at Russell County,” Rasmus added.
Russell County Season Leaders:
Pitching: Wins – Milam (9), Austin (8), Kobe Van Bogart (7); Strikeouts – Austin (98), Milam (79), Van Bogart (79)
Batting: Batting Average – Rice (.402), Faulk (.393), Huguley (.346); RBI – Faulk (39), Huguley (38), Donaldson (27); Slugging Percentage – Faulk (.729), Huguley (.542), Rice (.500)