Columbus, Russell County set to square off again - WRBL

Columbus, Russell County set to square off again

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The biggest high school baseball game of the year takes place Thursday afternoon.

Perennial powers Russell County and Columbus square off at Columbus High for the annual meeting of the heated rivalry.

"It's always big to play Columbus," said Russell County head coach Tony Rasmus. "They're the best program in this area, maybe the Southeast. Any coach around here would love to put a notch in their belt of beating [Columbus head coach] Bobby [Howard]. It's always big, and our kids are going to have a good time."

Columbus is striving for a fourth consecutive state championship, but had to replace eight starters from last year's title team. That, along with injuries, has Howard cautious before Thursday's game.

"We got a lot of respect for those guys over there and Coach Rasmus," Howard said. "It's been highly competitive, and we'll just see what happens. We're banged up a little bit, we're younger than we've ever been, and we hope we can be competitive."

For all of Howard's caution, Rasmus gives it right back.

"They're going to be more talented than us," Rasmus said of the Blue Devils. "They are every year. You can't make mistakes when you play them. They're going to play good baseball. They're going to be sound in every area of the game, but we have a chance to go up there and put our mark up against them."

Rasmus will start Warrior ace Jesse Nelson. Howard does not have the luxury of throwing his no. 1, as Will Bice "tweaked his back" earlier this week, keeping him off the mound. Howard says he expects senior Tony Dalponte to start instead.

"They've got good players, and we've had good players over the years," Howard said. "You just look at the guys that we both have playing college ball, [Division I] ball, and professionally, but there has been a lot of people here, and it's a good measuring stick for both of us."

Thursday's game is at Columbus High. First pitch scheduled for 4:15 p.m. EST.

Jonathan Huskey

Jonathan comes to News 3 from Fort Smith/Fayetteville, Ark., where he anchored weekends and reported during the week on some of the best high school sports in the state. More>>

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