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Eyes on Enterprise: Russellville 8U All-Stars headed to state tournament

The Russellville Dixie Youth Baseball 8U All-Star team is heading to the state tournament in Enterprise after a stellar run to the district title.

After running through the sub-district and district tournaments, the Golden Tigers will start their campaign toward a state championship this Friday, July 7 with a first-round game against the runner-up of District 5.

“We went 3-0 in sub-district and 6-0 in the district tournament,” said head coach Tim Cleveland. “The district tournament was a 12-team, double-elimination tournament. We’re the district champs, and we’re moving on to the state tournament.”

In the sub-district, Russellville defeated Winfield to advance, and in the district championship game the Golden Tigers beat host Rogersville 9-4 to take the district crown.

“We ended up playing Rogersville, and that’s always tough,” Cleveland said. “Playing the home team with their crowd, it’s tough to win, but our kids played very well.”

Cleveland said his team played in some relatively easy games and some really tough games, but every opponent brought their A-game against Russellville.

“I have no doubt we were getting everybody’s best shot,” he said. “That was apparent, because there would be a few teams that looked pretty mediocre the day before, and then when they played us it was like they were a completely different team.”

Cleveland believes the success of the Russellville High School baseball team, which has won three consecutive Class 5A state titles, has put a target on the back of any team wearing the Black and Gold.

“I think what the high school team has done over the last few years has played a big part in how hard other teams play against us,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how old the players are. When people hear ‘Russellville,’ they want to be the ones to beat us.”

And just because the Golden Tigers are moving on outside the district, Cleveland does not believe the desire of other teams to beat them will change.

“We’ll be playing against teams from Birmingham and Mobile and all over the state,” he said. “When you think about Russellville baseball, you think about championships. They may not know where Russellville is on a map, but they’ll probably know what our high school team has done, and they’ll want to knock us out.”

Thanks to the Fourth of July holiday, the Russellville 8U team will have plenty of time to practice and rest before the opening round of the state tournament.

“We’ll get some good practices in and work on some areas where we need to improve a little,” Cleveland said last week. “I feel pretty good about our chances.”

Even at such a young age, some of Cleveland’s players already have experience playing at the championship level.

“A few of these kids were with us when the six-and-under [team] went to the state tournament a couple years ago,” Cleveland said. “I think that experience will help them out now, so they kind of know what to expect.

“At the end of the day, they’re still eight-year-old kids, so you never really know what you’re going to get when they get out of bed in the morning. But this is probably one of the most polished teams, at this age, that I’ve ever seen. I’m very confident that we’ll play well when we get down to Enterprise.”

Team members are Houston Askew, Chase Phifer, Peyton Scofield, Chandler Benford, Brayden Entrekin, Keifer Hallmark, Gavin Willis, Luke Greenhill, Tripp Cleveland, Jackson Smith, Tristan Ray and Noah Smith. Assisting Cleveland are coaches Eric Hill, Dana Greenhill and Blake Entrekin.

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