BY JAMES COLLIER
FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
RACELAND Russell baseball has implemented a new rule when the Red Devils are batting.
Stopping at first base is optional.
Six of the Devils’ 10 hits on Monday night went for extra bases as Russell knocked off Raceland, 11-4, in 63rd District action.
“I keep reiterating that they keep taking to the approach of going gap to gap,” Russell skipper Tim Rice said. “When we do that, we see the ball, we let it get deep, we’re a tough team to beat.”
Landon Brewer sparked the hitting frenzy to open the contest with the first of five doubles by the Devils on the evening. Casey Hensley’s first two-bagger bookended Brewer’s, sandwiching a Nick Conley towering two-run shot to left center for a 3-0 lead.
“There may not be a hotter kid in the region right now than Landon Brewer,” Rice said. “The way that he just flips his wrists and drives the balls in the gaps, he can be pretty special.”
The senior finished 3 for 4, scoring three times while notching his team-high eighth double of the year.
Russell’s (16-7) offensive attack returned in the second after back-to-back doubles by Jesse Lyon and Justin Manning from the 8- and 9-holes made it 4-0, Devils.
“There’s not a weak link in our lineup right now,” Rice said. “Regardless of who is hitting in the 9-hole, I have confidence that those guys going in aren’t in the 9-hole because they are a weak out. They are there because they can run and do some things and turn that lineup over for us.”
Rams head coach Marty Mills said the quick start for the Devils was key in their win.
“It set the tone,” Mills said. “I think we kept fighting back, but it took us two or three innings to figure out what was going on.”
Russell tacked on three more in the third behind Brewer and Hensley singles for a 7-0 lead before the Rams found their first hit of the night.
The Rams (12-8) came to life in the third after Braden Shore’s infield single provided their first baserunner of the game. A Hunter Parsons walk gave the Rams their first scoring opportunity and Kirk Pence cashed in with a two-RBI single to right, trimming the lead to 7-2.
However, Brewer and Hensley struck again, with the latter smacking his second double of the night, a two-run hit to left that one-hopped the wall for a 10-2 lead.
“There’s not a guy on our team that works harder than Casey when it comes to his swing,” Rice said. “When he keeps that front shoulder in, the hands work a little better and he can start to drive the ball.” Hensley had 3-for-4 night at the plate while driving in three runs.
Raceland added a run in the fifth and sixth with Seth Mills smacking his first home run on a solo shot to left.
“I was pretty proud of our kids,” Mills said. “They didn’t lay down. They fought back a little bit and they’ve been doing that all year.”
Rice said tonight’s matchup will be another duel between district rivals.
“Every time the Rams and Red Devils get together it’s a dogfight,” Rice said. “I don’t expect that team to lie down just because we’ve got our ace on the mound.”
The teams reconvene tonight in Russell at 6 for the second of a two-game swing.
RUSSELL 313300 1 — 11 10 1 RACELAND022 011 0 — 4 5 4 Gillum, Carter (5), Manning (7) and Brinkman; S. Mills, Tate (4) and Kilburn, Heighton (4). W — Gillum. L —S. Mills. 2B — Hensley 2 (RU), Brewer (RU), Lyon (RU), Manning (RU). HR—Conley (RU).