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Headed to Huntsville: Russellville girls clinch third straight regional berth

For the second consecutive season, Russellville’s girls bounced back from a first-round loss at the Class 5A, Area 16 tournament to earn a regional berth, winning two elimination games on Friday at East Limestone High School to punch their ticket to Huntsville.

After riding a strong pitching performance by Krista Sikes to an 11-1 rout of Brooks in Friday’s first game, the Lady Golden Tigers (21-18-2) got back-to-back home runs from Autumn Logan and A.J. Taylor to spark a 9-4 win over top-seeded East Limestone in the loser’s bracket final.

Russellville lost 8-7 in extra innings to Lawrence County later on Friday night in the area finals, but the Lady Golden Tigers are headed to the North Regional Tournament for a third straight year. They will face Scottsboro on Thursday morning at 9 a.m. at the Metro Kiwanis Sportsplex.

After dispatching fourth-seeded Brooks in six innings on Friday afternoon, Russellville got off to a fast start against the host Lady Indians. Megan Warhurst retired the first five batters she faced on groundball outs, and then the Lady Golden Tigers got on the board in the bottom of the second. Taylor reached on an error, stole second and scored the game’s first run on a two-out single by Makala O’Neal.

Warhurst put up another zero in the top of the third, and Alivia Clemmons reached on an error with one out in the bottom half. Logan, a sophomore third baseman, smacked a pitch from Olivia Crouch over the fence in center for a two-run homer, her fifth of the season. Taylor, a sophomore centerfielder, followed with her fifth home run of the year, an opposite-field drive to right that made it 4-0.

Warhurst worked around two hits in the top of the fourth and then struck out two batters in a scoreless fifth, and the Lady Golden Tigers added a run in the bottom of the inning. Taylor walked and scored on a base hit by Jenna Whitfield to make it 5-0.

East Limestone put together four hits and an error to score three runs in the top of the sixth and get back in the game, but Russellville answered with four runs in the bottom half to seal the deal. Jasmine Galloway and Sydney Burcham both reached on errors, and Krista Sikes walked to load the bases. One out later, Logan drove in a run with a groundout, and then Taylor whacked a two-run double to left. She scored when Karlie Moore reached on an error, extending the lead to 9-3.

Warhurst gave up a solo homer to Kayleigh Tribble in the top of the seventh but retired Olivia Crouch on a groundball to Burcham at second for the final out. Warhurst allowed eight hits and two earned runs in a complete game, striking out three and walking none.

Taylor had a huge game, finishing 2-for-3 with a home run, a double, three RBIs and four runs scored. She also walked and stole a base. Logan homered and drove in three runs, and Burcham was 2-for-4 with a run. O’Neal and Jenna Whitfield each had a hit and an RBI.

Earlier on Friday, Russellville collected 14 hits in the 11-1 rout of Brooks. Burcham went 2-for-4 and scored twice, and Jenna Whitfield was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Clemmons was 2-for-4 with a double and three runs scored, and Logan went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run. Moore was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run, and Sikes went 1-for-3 and scored twice. Taylor, O’Neal and Lauren Rogers also went 1-for-3.

Sikes picked up the win in the circle, holding Brooks to two hits in four shutout innings. She struck out one and did not walk a batter. Emma Whitfield worked the final two innings, allowing one unearned run and no hits. She struck out one and walked none.

The Lady Golden Tigers got an RBI single from Clemmons in a three-run first and a two-run single from Jenna Whitfield in a five-run second. Brooks scored a run in the top of the sixth to make it 9-1, but Russellville ended the game in the bottom half on RBI singles by Moore and Rogers.

In other action on Friday:

Lawrence County 8 Russellville 7

Needing to beat Lawrence County twice to win the area championship, Russellville was leading 7-4 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh when Chloe Orr hit a game-tying three-run homer for the Lady Red Devils. Lawrence County went on to win it in the bottom of the eighth, getting back-to-back two-out doubles from Kaylee Nelson and Moesha McDaniel.

The Lady Golden Tigers struck first on an RBI single by Sydney Burcham in the top of the second, and they got a two-run single from Jenna Whitfield in a three-run third inning that pushed the lead to 4-0.

Lawrence County scored twice in the bottom of the third, but Russellville came right back with two runs in the top of the fourth. Burcham and Krista Sikes singled to start the rally, and Alivia Clemmons came through with an RBI single to bring home Burcham. Sikes scored when Autumn Logan reached on an error to make it 6-2.

Lawrence County took advantage of two walks and two errors to score twice against reliever Emma Whitfield in the bottom of the fourth. Sikes worked a scoreless bottom of the fifth, and then Taylor’s sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth stretched the lead to 7-4. It stayed that way until Orr’s two-out homer in the seventh.

Sikes took the loss, allowing four earned runs on five hits in 3.2 innings. She struck out four and walked two. Megan Warhurst started for Russellville and did not allow an earned run in 2.2 innings, giving up two hits and striking out one.

Burcham went 2-for-3 with two walks, an RBI and a run. Sikes, Clemmons, Logan, Moore and Jenna Whitfield each had one hit.

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