Blythewood earned its first state championship shot, securing the Class 4A Upper State baseball title with a 6-0 win Friday at home against Wade Hampton.
The Bengals (26-5) went through the Elite Eight with three shutout wins, and a crack pitching staff will carry a streak of 22 scoreless innings into next week’s state championship showdown against Lexington.
“I can’t recall a team winning all three games at this level with shutouts, but great pitching’s been the story for us all season,” Blythewood coach Barry Mizzell said. “We wavered a little bit over the last third of the season, but we’ve gotten it back when it’s really meant something.
“I was probably more nervous today before the game than I’ve ever been. Not because of me because I’ve been here before (at Richland Northeast), but for these seniors. This class is very close and very dedicated, and I wanted more than anything for them to experience this.”
Blythewood, which put together a 25-inning scoreless streak in March, started the new streak behind Allen Louthian in the first round against Mauldin. Andrew Beckwith followed with a five-hit whitewashing of Wade Hampton in the semifinals Wednesday. That left it up to Zack Hamilton to seal the deal, and keep the scoreless run in tact.
“I didn’t care how, I just wanted to do my job to help the team get it done,” the senior right-hander said. “It’s a great feeling and an honor to be on first team from the school to play for a championship.”
Hamilton got off to a rough start but avoided damage in the first two innings. He issued three walks and allowed two hits in the early going but was in command after surviving a bases-load jam in the second.
“Zack’s a confidence guy, and getting out of the second inning was huge for him,” Mizzell said. “After that, he was fantastic.”
Hamilton retired 13 in a row and 16 of the final 17 Generals he faced. It all began when he got a called third strike on Ridge Chapman for the final out in the second.
The Bengals did not have a hit through the first three innings against Wade Hampton’s Tyler Thornton, but they scored a run each in the fourth and fifth before breaking it open with four in the sixth.
Tyler Romanik opened with fourth with a single up the middle, moved up on a bunt by Thomas Bessinger, stole third and came home on a wild pitch. Four Bengal runs were the result of wild pitches by Thornton.
Ricky Kernan led off the fifth with a double down the right-field line and scored on Aaron Dahm’s single up the middle through the drawn-in Generals infield.
The Bengals parlayed three hits, one walk and three wild pitches into four runs in the sixth. Derek Croxton’s double got things going, and he scored on a single by Connor Grant.