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Late balk sends Hartselle to semifinals

By By Todd Thompson, Hartselle Enquirer
HARTSELLE – Russellville got the attention of six-time state champion Hartselle Friday night, but it wasn’t enough to keep Hartselle from earning a rematch with rival Cullman.
Hartselle ended Russellville’s year by beating the Golden Tigers 17-7 and 6-5 in eight innings Friday night in the Class 5A quarterfinals at Rueben Sims Field.
Russellvile finished the year 35-14, while Hartselle improved to 34-9 overall.
Hartselle will meet Cullman in the semifinals beginning Friday in Cullman. The defending state champion Bearcats won two straight from Athens after dropping the opening game of their quarterfinal series to advance.
Hartselle dominated the first game, winning 17-7 in a game shortened to six innings by the 10-run mercy rule. And with staff ace J.C. Bates pitching in the second game, Hartselle fans were already looking toward the semifinals and a possible rematch with Cullman.
Instead, Russellville was intent on forcing a third-and-deciding game with Hartselle.
Russellville never made it to the third game despite rallying late to force extra innings in the second game.
Hartselle had 24 hits in the series, including 15 in the opening game.
Hartselle stung the Golden Tigers for eight runs in the opening inning of the first game, chasing starter Jake Ward from the mound with eight runs.
The Golden Tigers used four different pitchers in the opener, but couldn’t keep Hartselle in check.
Caleb Mitchell had a bases-loaded triple for Russellville in the second inning as the Golden Tigers trimmed Hartselle’s lead to 8-5.
But Hartselle scored three runs in the second and added three more in both the fifth and sixth innings to secure the victory.
Garrett Turrentine’s 2-run homer in the bottom of the sixth - his eighth home run of the season - ended the game with a 10-run margin.
Chad Girodo earned the win for Hartselle despite struggling early in the game. The junior lefthander allowed nine hits and seven earned runs, but got enough offensive support to pick up his eighth win of the season in 12 decisions.
Jake Ward took the loss after being charged with eight earned runs while pitching just 1/3 of an inning before he was replaced.
Mitchell finished 3-for-4 for Russellville, while Jacob Daniel and Torey Baird both added solo homers.
Seth Rhudy, John Batchelor and Corey Flanagan all had singles for Russellville.
Russellville led 2-0 in the second game with a sacrifice fly by Mitchell and an RBI single by Jake Ward.
But Hartselle - using an offensive attack that has posted 54 runs in its last four playoff games - took the lead with four runs on four hits in the top of the third inning.
Will Chappell and Turrentine singled to open the third. An error by Russellville allowed one run to score and Zack Waddell followed with an RBI single. Luke Bole capped the inning with a two-run double down the right field line.
Bole then scored on a wild pitch.
Hartselle added to the lead in the fourth when Turrentine hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Ryan Joy.
Russellville trimmed the lead with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning with three hits.
Baird drove in the second run of the inning with a single to cut the gap to 5-4.
Bates struck out the first two Russellville batters he faced in the bottom of the seventh inning, but walked Daniel to put the winning run at the plate.
Baird kept Russellville’s hopes alive with a two-strike double that scored Daniel, tying the game. Bates then ended the threat with a short popup.
Bole doubled to open the eighth inning and he moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Nic Howard.
Bole scored the go-ahead run on a balk by Trapp. The Russellville pitcher appeared to have stepped toward the plate before making a move toward third.
Bates retired the side in the bottom of the inning to pick up his 13th win of the season.

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