Russia’s remarkable run continues, gets spotlighted on WLW


The Russia Raiders were proclaimed to be the high school baseball version of the “Hoosiers” on WLW-AM radio during its Tuesday night sports talk show.

Host Lance McAlister highlighted the Raiders’ 104 victories on the diamond over the last four years and their journey to the Division IV state tournament this Saturday night as “an incredible ‘small school’ success story.”

McAlister noted, “Furthermore, the seven seniors on the 2024 squad who have been with the program throughout their high school careers represent more than one-half of the 13 senior boys at Russia High School who graduated last month at commencement.”

He said “this small group of guys has achieved some improbable feats.”

McAlister detailed that the Russia baseball program won 26 games in 2021; 25 in 2022 and earned a state championship; 26 more last year and finished as state runner-up; and 27, a school record, here in 2024.

The Raiders, 27-4 and ranked fourth in Ohio in the final state poll, will tangle with defending state champ and number one-rated Berlin Hiland, 25-5, at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Canal Park in Akron.

WLW in Cincinnati is a member of the iHeartMedia Markets Group of the Southwest Ohio Region, which WLW promotes as the No. 1 audio company in the country. The station says that iHeartMedia reaches nine of 10 Americans every month via radio, digital and social media, and many podcasts.

McAlister himself creates numerous podcasts and serves as the host for nightly “Sports Talk,” “Bengals Line,” and Cincinnati Reds pre- and post-game programs.

In preceding the broadcast of the Reds victory at Colorado on Tuesday night, McAlister “teased” upcoming segments of his talk show by announcing to the vast audience that he had “a very interesting high school sports story” to share.

Although a slight underdog this weekend to dethrone last June’s state champ, Berlin Hiland, “Russia can never be counted out and will offer its very best shot,” McAlister said later in the evening.

“Coach Kevin Phlipot has won 20 games per season in his 10 years coaching the Raiders,” he added.

The “Best Shot” was actually the title given to the 1986 movie “Hoosiers” in some countries. It tells the story of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that, despite long odds, advanced all the way to the state championship. The movie is inspired, in part, by the team from the tiny village of Milan that won the 1954 title in Hoosier land by edging out a school with one of the state’s largest enrollments.

McAlister described Ohio’s village of Russia as being “on the western edge of Shelby County about a dozen miles or so west of Sidney.” He said “they go crazy over their high school sports up there in the Shelby County Athletic League and the Midwest Athletic Conference.”

The WLW talk show host told his audience that he was fed information about the unique Russia Raiders baseball success from Jack Kramer, whose 18-year online play-by-play service covers both the Shelby County Athletic League and the Midwest Athletic Conference.

“Jack does a great job serving as the eyes and voice for high school fans in west central Ohio who can’t make it to the big games,” McAlister said. “The 95 to 100 broadcasts each year are archived for listening enjoyment at any time.”

SCORES, the Shelby County Online Radio Entertainment System, is available to listeners free of charge.

Kramer said he became motivated to alert WLW about Russia baseball when he heard the station spotlight the regional and state accomplishments of White Oak High School track stars on Monday’s show. Located in the village of Mowrystown in south central Ohio, the school doesn’t have any facilities for track and field, but still produced some of Ohio’s top small-school athletes in the sport this year.

McAlister received Kramer’s lengthy email early Tuesday morning and inserted the Raiders dynamite diamond story into his script for the second hour that night.

The announcer hits the air waves on Saturday at 6:20 p.m.— online air time for the Russia-Hiland pre-game segment. A few thousand fans will be listening to the “radio on their phone for high school sports,” which best describes the brand.

McAlister said he loves “the unique and unusual, small community, human interest stories that touch our lives through sports teams and their talented student athletes.” He stated, “I was excited to focus part of my program on Russia baseball.”

The WLW announcer added, “The Raiders story is special, for sure, like the Hoosiers.”

By the way, The Hoosiers Gym in Knightstown, Indiana — the home court for the movie’s Hickory Huskers — has been the basketball game site in recent years for a couple of Russia’s boys and girls regular hoops opponents.

In February of 2019, the Fort Loramie boys defeated Strasburg-Franklin at The Hoosiers Gym. The Minster girls thumped Marion Pleasant in Knightstown during the 2023-24 season.

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