The Russellville Indians baseball team finished an undefeated summer season by winning the Russellville tournament on July 23 after defeating the Hermann Bearcats 9-2. The Indians finish their summer season with a record of 12 wins and one tie, and during the tournament they outscored their opponents 43-7.
Head coach Lucas Branson said the team accomplished part of its goal by winning the final game of their season.
”It is what we expected to happen in the spring. That we would be in the game to win the last game of the season and finish with a state championship,” Branson said. “That was what our goal was, so not having that opportunity, we felt like it was important to have a tournament this summer with whoever we could bring in. Fortunately, we were able to pull in several good teams to make it competitive. That was what we wanted to do, and that is what we accomplished.”
The team’s aggressive offensive game plan helped it score so many runs in the tournament, Branson said.
“We (have) kids that are aggressive hitters — they understand what our offensive philosophy is and that is to be aggressive early in the counts,” Branson said. “Knowing what pitches to attack and what their hitting zone is, understanding how to hit in certain counts and in today’s game we had several hits with two strikes and with runners in scoring position. Obviously those are huge, but we just have great baseball players and they understand how to play a game and they understand how to compete. They understand what we expect with our program and we went through the summer without losing a ballgame.”
The tournament was a double elimination tournament. The Indians comfortably won their first round game July 21 against Stoutland 16-0.
Russellville won its second round game July 22 also against Hermann, 6-5. In that game, the Indians trailed 1-0 after the top of the first inning, but a home run by Dawson Koch to lead off the bottom of the first inning tied it at 1-1. The team had runners on second and third with two outs in the inning when a three-run home run by Braden Hickey broke the tie and gave Russellville a 4-1 lead.
Herman started to slowly cut into the lead in the top of the third inning with two runners on and two outs in the inning, scoring on a base hit made it a 4-2 game. Later in the inning with the bases loaded, Russellville was able to get out of the inning with the score still 4-2.
Russellville got a few runs back in the bottom of the third inning thanks to a base hit by Jesse Daniels that scored two runs to make it a 5-2 game. The Indians would score again later in the inning to make it a 6-2 game.
In the top of the fourth inning, Hermann again scored two runs to make it 6-4. In the sixth inning, back-to-back doubles made it a one run game at 6-5, but solid pitching and defense helped Russellville end the inning still holding on to the lead.
In the top of the seventh inning, Hermann had a chance to tie the game with runners on the corners, but Koch struck out the last two batters to end the game.
The Indians faced Prairie Home on July 23 in the semifinals of the tournament. The game was all Russellville, as the hosts defeated the Panthers 12-0 to advance to the finals.
Russellville led 5-0 heading into the top of the third inning against the Panthers. The Indians scored four times in the inning to pull ahead 9-0. With the bases loaded and one out in the inning, a ground ball by Alex Oligschlaeger made it 6-0 and, a couple of batters later, a hit by Isaiah Kauffman made it 9-0.
In the top of the fourth inning, Russellville added four more runs to make it 12-0 and shut out Prairie Home in the bottom half to seal the victory.
In the rematch against Hermann in the championship game, Russellville jumped out to a 2-0 lead after a two-out single by Hickey scored two runs in the first inning.
The score stayed the same until the top of the fourth inning when, with men on the corners and one out, a double by Landon Plochberger scored a run to make it 3-0. Another run crossed home after a base hit off the bat of Matthew Miller made it 4-0.
Hermann got back into the game thanks to back-to-back solo home runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, making it a 4-2 game. Those two runs were the only ones to score off of Koch, who was pitching for Russellville. Koch struck out eight batters, walked two and gave up only two hits as he pitched the whole game.
Russellville got a run back in the top of the fifth inning after a single by Daniels made it 5-2. Daniels made it to second base after the ball got past the centerfielder during his base hit. That mistake helped score another run as Koch hit a double to make it 6-2.
Branson said that when the team can capitalize on its opponent’s mistakes, it helps their chances of winning.
”If you look back at the box score, the team that has the fewest walks from a pitching standpoint and the fewest defensive errors and doesn’t give up errors going in the other direction is the team that usually wins,” Branson said. “Anytime you capitalize on those mistakes, that is important.”
Russellville put the game away in the top of the seventh inning, scoring three more runs to make it 9-2.
The Indians were also able to get on base by being patient, as they forced six walks while on offense.
Branson said the team understands the strike zone.
“They’ve got an idea of knowing what pitches they want to attack and early in the count, they understand where we are in the game and not being super aggressive against a pitcher who the second guy (Hermann) brought in was leaving pitches up,” Branson said. “They understand that if he throws the first four, five, six pitches up that we’ve got to make him get the ball down before we start swinging at it. Our offensive philosophy is that we want to be aggressive with discipline and over this month and a half that we have been able to play this summer, we have done a fantastic job of executing that.”