RUSSELLVILLE — It wasn't quite the state tournament they were striving to reach this year, but the Russellville Indians treated it like it was.
"That's how we played it," Russellville senior Dawson Koch said. "We took it serious and just came out and played hard."
Russellville won four games in three days by a combined score of 42-7, capping off a Russellville Tournament championship Thursday with a 9-2 victory against the Hermann Bearcats.
The Indians ended the 2019 season with a loss in sectionals and placed third in the Class 2 state tournament in 2018.
Russellville was determined to make it back to the Final Four, but had to settle for a handful of summer games after the spring season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Indians went in with the goal of going undefeated. They accomplished that, ending the summer with 12 wins and one tie.
"It just proves what we knew we were capable of," Russellville coach Lucas Branson said.
Thursday's title game began with Koch's first of three singles. Two batters later, Logan Cinotto doubled and Trenton Morrow walked to set up Braden Hickey for a fly-ball single to right field to put Russellville ahead 2-0.
Koch finished 4-for-5 with a double and an RBI, while his courtesy runner Nick Graham scored three runs.
"That was my goal was just to have good ABs coming out here and make sure to put the pressure on them and get on base," Koch said. "I knew behind me I had some good hitters that would drive me in."
Hermann only had two baserunners in the first three innings against Koch.
Matthew Miller, Cinotto and Alex Oligschlaeger completed a 4-6-3 double play — with the help of a pick by Oligschlaeger at first base — to erase a leadoff single in the second.
"We talk about trying to make bad throws be good, so helping each other out," Branson said. "That's what happened today."
In the third, Koch caught two batters looking and the third swinging at a breaking ball in the dirt. Koch struck out eight, walked two and allowed three hits in a complete game.
"Curveball and my fastball were working pretty good for the most part," Koch said. " The slider was working against right-handed batters good and I was trying to work the changeup in a lot against lefties."
Hermann's two runs came in the fourth inning on back-to-back solo home runs by No. 3 batter TJ Racherbaumer and cleanup hitter Trent Anderson.
"I got behind in the count and had to get a strike and he was ready for it," Koch said of his fastball. "And the next kid, threw a changeup, left it over the plate and he hit it far."
Racherbaumer's homer cleared the fence — and the leaping Hickey — in center field. Russellville right fielder Jesse Daniels could only watch Anderson's solo shot easily sail over the fence to cut Russellville's lead to 4-2.
Koch didn't allow a hit the rest of the game.
"When we started our season we wanted to win our last game," Branson said. "That's what we expected and we knew that in that situation Dawson was going to be the guy that was going to be in that game."
The Indians built the lead back to a four-run advantage in the fifth on a Daniels single to center field plus an error in the outfield and a Koch one-hopper off the fence in right-center for an RBI double.
Daniels was one of four Indians with multiple hits, going 2-for-4. Matthew Miller was 2-for-4 with an RBI and Cinotto finished 2-for-3 with two walks and two RBI coming off a single to deep left field to drive in the final runs of the game. Cinotto was tagged out trying to reach second base.
"I think everybody in the lineup throughout this week just locked in offensively," Branson said. "It's not really a surprise because I fully expected with how our lineup could be constructed in just various different ways that we would have a chance to score multiple runs in innings and string hits together."
To finish off an all-around effort for the Indians, Russellville shortstop Cinotto dove to his right to grab a line drive and threw it to first base for a game-ending double play.
"We knew that we had a chance for this to be a special group," Branson said. " We talk about creating memories, and this is going to be a memory that they played their last game out here and was able to win a tournament."