Baseball: Russia breaks through in 5th, beats Southeastern for second straight state berth


FAIRBORN — Russia once again overcame a tense situation to win a postseason game. The Raiders will now have a chance to cement legendary status next week.

Russia broke open a tied game in the fifth inning on Friday and beat South Charleston Southeastern 4-1 at Wright State’s University’s Nischwitz Field to earn its second consecutive Division IV regional title.

The Raiders (25-6) advance to their second consecutive state semifinal and will face St. Henry this coming Thursday at Canal Park in Akron. The Redskins beat the Blue Jays 8-5 in a regional final on Friday in Elida. Russia beat St. Henry 6-4 in the championship game of the St. Henry Invitational on April 8.

Russia won the D-IV state title last year. Many of the team’s players were a part of the school’s basketball team, which earned a state berth in March.

“When you sit back and think about it, it’s really something; it’s really hard,” Russia starting pitcher Braylon Cordonnier said. “Only four teams in the state get there. But with that, we’ve all played baseball together, and basically every sport together, for a long time. We have team chemistry, and that’s helped us a lot.

“… Back in fifth and sixth grade, we had combined teams sometimes, so everybody’s played together. You know what each person can do.”

The Raiders rallied in their last five tournament games last year to win the state title. They rallied in a district semifinal against Newton on May 22 and beat Sugar Grove Berne Union 4-0 in eight innings in a regional semifinal on Thursday in Springfield.

Those are a handful of tight situations Russia has been in the last two years, and Cordonnier said the squad is experienced at keeping its cool.

“I kind of brought last year’s memory to this game, knowing what we had to do, how to take care of business (playing for a second straight day),” Cordonnier said.

After each squad scored one run in the fourth, Russia broke the game open in the top of the fifth.

Xavier Phlipot hit a single on a hard ground ball to left with one out, then Cordonnier drew a walk with two outs.

Brayden Monnin hit a two-strike single on a fly to center, which center fielder Kyle Adkins had trouble with and let drop and bounce once.

Phlipot scored on Monnin’s single to give the Raiders a 2-1 lead, then Hayden Quinter hit a hard ground ball to center for a single to drive in two more runs and give the Raiders a 4-1 lead.

Quinter had been in a slump before the regional but delivered the deciding hit on Thursday and followed with a stellar performance at the plate on Friday. He was also solid at third base, including a circus catch he made. After Cordonnier lost a pop up in the sun, Quinter sprinted and made a catch while falling down close to third base.

“He’s a confident kid, so that was never short,” Russia coach Kevin Phlipot said. “He always showed he was ready, and I kept talking to him and told him that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. We’ll remember these last two games. Who cares what you did in (regular) season. He’s had two of the biggest at bats we’ve had.

“He’s really experienced; this is his third straight regional. He’s not scared of anything.”

Cordonnier pitched a complete game. He gave up seven hits and struck out nine batters without walking any.

“He attacked the zone and did a good job,” Phlipot said. “They did a good job of jumping on him with pesky little at bats. They’re not overpowering and their numbers don’t show a lot, but they had great at bats and had guys every now and then turn on a pitch or slap one to left field to get things going.

“But when his back was against the wall, he got us out of every jam.”

Quinter was 2 for 2 with 2 RBIs, one double and one walk. Cordonnier was 1 for 2 with one walk and one double.

Russia had six hits and committed one error while the Trojans had seven hits and committed one error.

Xavier Phlipot pitched a complete game on Thursday. He did the same in last year’s state final win over Lincolnview.

He and Cordonnier are among several reliable pitchers the Raiders will have available next weekend in Akron.

“Knowing that we can endure gives us confidence,” Cordonnier said. “Anybody on our team can endure and go out there, give us a whole game or five or six solid innings.”

Phlipot praised the team’s success, especially given the basketball team’s success. The basketball team played in a state semifinal on March 17; the baseball team started regular-season play two weeks later.

“The first five guys in my lineup are the starting guys on the basketball team,” Phlipot said. “Our sixth man was the sixth guy off the bench. These guys went state to state to state in three straight seasons. That says a lot about them all, and our seniors and our upperclassmen. We’ve just got athletes. Not one-sport athletes; they’re just athletes.”

Phlipot said the squad is grateful for its success.

“This was our goal (to return to state). We’ve got seven starters back,” Phlipot said. “But just because we want it, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. This game is tough. Our backs have been against the wall. These guys know that just because we may be the better team out there, it can be taken away at any moment.

“We didn’t take anything for granted. We knew we had to work and compete. I think it’s just the experience, whether baseball or basketball. These guys have played in so many big games, and that means a lot.”

The Trojans had a chance in the bottom of the sixth. Zach McKee hit a line-drive single to center, then Kason Spears hit a line-drive single to center.

“It was kind of a short leash there, but (Cordonnier) even said (during a meeting on the mound) to get Cooper (Unverferth) ready just in case,” Phlipot said. “He said he was fine and could still go, but that was a lot to ask for, especially in this heat when it’s the first time it’s been this hot when he’s pitching.”

Cole Walton hit into a fielder’s choice grounder that resulted in Spears being thrown out in second, then Cordonnier struck out Cole Erskine and Aidan Harbage to end the inning.

“I had to know in that situation that you can’t miss a pitch,” Cordonnier said. “You miss a pitch, you hang one over the plate, then you’re in trouble. I had to work mostly outside, and that ended up doing it.”

Cordonnier, a sophomore who can reach the mid-80’s, retired the Trojans in order in the seventh and struck out four of the last six batters he faced.

“At that point, after the second out, I was just trying to see how hard I could throw it,” Cordonnier said.

After both teams left runners on in the first three innings, Russia took a lead in the top of the fourth.

Cordonnier led off the inning with a line-drive double to right field. Monnin hit a fielder’s choice bunt, and courtesy runner Vince Borchers beat the throw to third. Cordial intentionally walked Hayden Quinter, then Felix Francis hit a grounder back to Harbage at short stop, who threw Borchers out a home for the first out.

But Jude Counts hit a sacrifice fly to right, which allowed Monnin to score and give Russia a 1-0 lead.

Cordial coaxed a fly out from Ross Fiessinger for the third out, and the Trojans tied it in the bottom half.

Walton hit a line-drive single to center with one out, then Cole Erskine hit a sacrifice bunt to first. Harbage then hit a ground ball single to third.

Walton turned third and was caught on the base path after Russia threw to third, but a rundown throw got away from Russia catcher Cooper Unverferth, while allowed Walton to score and tie it 1-1.

Cordonnier struck out Kyle Adkins to end the inning.

Southeastern, which lost 6-2 to Russia in a regional semifinal last year, finishes 15-10 overall.

Cordial pitched 4 2/3 innings and gave up four earned runs on six hits and two walks while striking out two.

Russia left one runner on base in each the first and second. The Trojans left one on in the first, two in the second and one in the third.

Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.

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Bryant Billing has been at the Sidney Daily News since 2017. He took over as editor in April of 2024 after working as sports editor for the previous 6.5 years. He worked as a reporter and later as an editor for a weekly newspaper in Springfield from 2007 to 2012, managed a Springfield-based website called from 2012 to 2016 and then worked as a freelancer for Cox Media Group Ohio newspapers (including the Dayton Daily News) from 2016 to 2017 before joining the SDN.

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