Kelly Russell Classic to feature softball games this year
By Jim Turner

Posted on March 29, 2024 7:45 PM


When Russellville High School cancelled its high school baseball season this spring, it was feared that the Kelly Russell Classic would be lost as well.

Kelly Russell was a co-captain of the 1974 Panther baseball team who was headed to Murray State University on a baseball scholarship. As the Panthers warmed up for a regional game at Bowling Green High School, Kelly turned to see what was happening in the game underway on the adjacent field. He was hit by a slowly thrown ball at the base of his head near his neck. It apparently dislodged an aneurism, he fell immediately and he never breathed again.

His funeral was held in deGraffenried Auditorium on a May morning, and his class graduated in the same building that night.

To honor him, the baseball diamond at RHS was named Kelly Russell Field. The Kelly Russell Scholarship was also established. A little over a decade ago, some of his friends created the Kelly Russell Classic to honor him and encourage student-athletes to attend college. The Classic is not a tournament but a chance for several teams to play an extra game.

The last few years, softball games have also been played as part of the Kelly Russell Classic at the Lady Panthers’ nearby field at Russellville’s impressive outdoor athletic complex.

The Kelly Russell Classic has made money for the Kelly Russell Scholarships through admission tickets, concessions and the sale of Kelly Russell Classic shirts,

Among the leaders of this movement have been Russellville Alumni Association President Jean Sosh Reynolds, who was a member of Kelly’s graduating class; Kelly’s teammate and best friend, Steve Gilliam; Russellville Councilwoman Diane Gilliam Walker, Steve Gilliam’s sister and best friend of Kelly’s girlfriend at the time,; Kelly’s teammate of the Class of ’73 and Hall of Fame chairman, Greg Owens; and several other members of the Class of 1974.

Friday, it was announced that the Kelly Russell Classic will still be staged this year. It will be softball only.

This is the announcement from Greg Owens:

The 11th Annual Kelly Russell Classic will be held on Saturday, April 13,, again this year. Coach Ryan Davenport has scheduled three softball games to continue our tradition of honoring our friend and continuing to raise money for the scholarship in Kelly's name.

Our Lady Panthers will play Rossview High School out of Clarksville at 10 a.m.. followed by a game with Louisville Butler around noon. The third game will pit Butler against Rossview at 2 p.m.

As usual, the fine folks at Roy's Bar B Que will be feeding the teams, so if there are any volunteers that want to come and help fix the sandwiches, we will need you around 11 a.m. at the Middle School gym.

So, if you want to spend a few hours honoring our friend and seeing some great softball action, come out and support our ladies and contribute to the Kelly Russell Scholarship Fund.

There is a Pay Pal link available if you wish to contribute that way. Also, you can send your donation to the Kelly Russell Scholarship Fund at First Southern National Bank, P.O. Box 118, Russellville if you wish.

Thanks again and see everyone on the 13th.

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