CINCINNATI — Russia rallied after a slow start in a Division IV regional semifinal on Thursday to earn a berth in a final for the second consecutive year. This year, the Raiders are hoping to earn a state berth.
Russia scored six runs in the fourth inning to take control and held on to beat South Charleston Southeastern 6-2 at Cincinnati Princeton High School.
The Raiders (22-6) advance to a regional final for the second consecutive season. They’ll face the winner of Fort Loramie vs. Lancaster Fairfield Christian. Fort Loramie and Russia faced off in a regional final last year; the Redskins won 7-1.
The two rivals split the Shelby County Athletic League title in regular season after splitting their two regular-season matchups.
“Pitching, hitting and timely defense,” Russia coach Kevin Phlipot said. “We’re confident in who we’re throwing. We have to go in, stay calm and focused and do what we’ve done all year. Nobody try to be a hero, nobody try to do too much. Just keep the line moving.”
Grant Saunders pitched a complete game for the Raiders. He gave up two earned runs on five hits and one walk while striking out 10 batters.
Saunders gave up both runs and all of the hits in the first four innings. He allowed one base runner the last three innings and struck out the three batters he faced in the seventh.
“They had some good at bats,” Phlipot said. “They were pesky. Grant was feeling his way through. Some guys take a little bit more time to warm up and feel comfortable.”
After struggling to hit Southeastern pitcher Sam Smith, the Raiders scored six runs on six hits and one walk in the fourth.
Hayden Quinter got the Raiders started with a line-drive single to center field, then Saunders hit a fly single to center that dropped between the right fielder and center fielder. Braylon Cordonnier followed with a pop fly that fell behind third base and drove in one run to cut the gap to 2-1.
Aiden Shappie then drove in a run on a double to left field to tie it. With Zane Shappie at the plate, Cordonnier scored on a passed ball to give Russia a 3-2 lead.
Zane Shappie struck out, but Jared Poling then drove in a run on a double to push the lead to 4-2. Jude Counts drew a walk, then Brayden Monnin hit a hard ground ball to center to drive in two runs and push the lead to 6-2.
“We struggled there early trying to get comfortable at the plate,” Phlipot said. “(Smith) had a couple of different pitches, and we weren’t sure what to expect. We were feeling our way through the first time through (the lineup). After that, everybody got confident and they started squaring up.
“… It was a team effort. We were consistent. We struggled the first time through, but then we started hitting.”
Monnin finished 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs. Saunders was 2 for 4, Aiden Shappie was 2 for 3 and Poling was 2 for 3.
Russia finished with 11 hits and didn’t commit any errors. Southeastern committed two errors.
Russia beat Fort Loramie 5-2 in an SCAL game on its home field on April 12. The Redskins won 4-1 on their home field on April 21.
Friday’s regional final is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. at Princeton.
The Trojans scored one run on three hits in the first. Smith drove in the run on a line-drive single to center field with one out. Saunders later struck out a batter and drew a line out to get out of the inning.
The Trojans scored another run in the third. Saunders hit Gehrig Cordial with a pitch with one out, then Smith hit an RBI single to right field. Saunders hit another batter but caught Smith stealing third, then drew a fly out to keep the gap at 2-0.
Southeastern finishes 19-7 overall.