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Russellville girls fall two outs shy of Montgomery

Two outs away from their second state tournament berth in the last three years, Russellville's girls couldn't close the deal against Alexandria on Friday afternoon, falling 9-8 in the loser's bracket final at the North Regional Tournament in Huntsville.

Earlier on Friday, the Lady Golden Tigers (24-20-2) had rallied from a late deficit to beat Scottsboro 5-4 on a walk-off RBI single by A.J. Taylor. With a trip to Montgomery on the line just a few hours later, Alexandria turned the tables and walked off on Russellville with a three-run rally in the bottom of the seventh. An RBI single by Emma Rolfe brought Alexandria within a run at 8-7, and then Leighton Sparks won it with a two-run single to right.

The Lady Golden Tigers fell behind in the bottom of the first when a two-run single by Millie Burt staked Alexandria to an early 2-0 lead. Sophomore pitcher Krista Sikes settled in at that point and retired 11 of the next 12 batters she faced.

Still trailing 2-0, Russellville rallied to score five runs in the top of the fifth. Makala O'Neal and Jenna Whitfield started the inning with base hits, and Sydney Burcham's RBI single got the Lady Golden Tigers on the board. One out later, Whitfield scored the tying run on a sacrifice bunt by Alivia Clemmons. Autumn Logan followed with a bunt hit, scoring Burcham to put Russellville on top 3-2.

Clemmons scored on an error, and then Taylor delivered a sac fly to chase home Logan and make it 5-2.

Sikes worked around a one-out double in the bottom of the fifth, and the Lady Golden Tigers added two more runs in the top of the sixth. Karlie Moore singled and scored when O'Neal reached on an error, and Burcham brought home O'Neal with a squeeze bunt to make it 7-2.

Kyleigh Rhodes homered for Alexandria in the bottom of the sixth to cut the lead to 7-3, but Sikes struck out the next batter for out number two. An error, a passed ball, two singles and a two-run double by Mattie Wade brought Alexandria back within a run at 7-6. Megan Warhurst relieved Sikes in the circle and got the third out of the inning on a groundball.

Russellville got one of those runs back in the top of the seventh on singles by Logan, Warhurst and Moore to make it 8-6. Warhurst retired the first batter in the bottom of the inning before issuing a walk and hitting a batter. Rolfe's RBI single cut the lead to 8-7, and Sparks delivered the walk-off win with a two-run single to right.

Moore led the Lady Golden Tigers at the plate, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run. Logan was 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs, and Warhurst was 2-for-4 with a double. Burcham went 1-for-2 with two RBIs and a run, and O'Neal was 1-for-4 with two runs scored. Clemmons was 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run, and Whitfield was 1-for-3 with a run.

Sikes pitched 5.2 innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits. She struck out four and walked three.

Russellville finished third at the regional, with Ardmore and Alexandria moving on to the Class 5A state tournament.

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