RUSSELLVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The Russellville High School (RHS) baseball team has made it to the third round of playoffs one year after the departure of legendary head coach Chris Heaps.

Heaps led the RHS Golden Tigers to five championships from 2015-2022, including back-to-back championships over the past two years. However, Heaps retired from public education in August of 2022.

RHS hired former coaching assistant and UNA baseball alumni Jess Smith to be the new head coach in 2023.

“I think very dearly of coach heaps,” Smith told News 19. “He’s been absolutely great for me and my career, and I certainly wouldn’t be here without him, that’s for sure.”

The team started their season with five straight losses, but rallied to a 22-13 record. Smith said that the team’s three returning starters have been excellent leaders throughout the season.

“I challenged our guys, and our other coaches have challenged our guys to not blink, but continue to trust in what we’re doing, who we are, and how we do it,” Smith said.

RHS senior pitcher Banks Langston told News 19 that the team has consistently gotten better since their 0-5 start.

“Our first five games weren’t the easiest games, and we had some tough opponents,” Langston said. “We just had to really work through those situations and stuff like that, and come together as a team.”

The RHS Golden Tigers are set to play against Sardis High School in the quarterfinals.