No. 1 Lexington hosts third-ranked Blythewood in the first game of the Class 4A state championship baseball series Monday at 7 p.m.
It is the first all-Midlands title clash in 4A since Irmo prevailed over Spring Valley for the 1998 title. Brookland-Cayce swept A.C. Flora for the 2008 Class 3A championship under current Lexington coach Brian Hucks.
The teams have remarkably similar statistics.
Blythewood (26-3) is averaging 6.6 runs scored per game, while Lexington (26-4) is at 6.5 rpg.
But its the pitching numbers that are most intriguing.
Blythewood has compiled a 1.48 team ERA with an eye-opening 14 shutouts. Bengal hurlers tossed three straight shutouts on the way to the Upper State championship a rare accomplishment, indeed. Blythewood had a stretch of 25 scoreless innings in March and bring a 22-inning scoreless streak into the finals.
Lexingtons pitching has been excellent, as well. The Wildcats have a 1.68 team ERA, and surrendered just two runs in its 3-0 sweep to the Lower State title.
The projected pitching match-up for Game 1: Blythewood right-hander Andrew Beckwith (7-1, 1.02 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 75 strikeouts in 68.2 innings) vs. Lexington left-hander Josh Reagan (9-0. 1.32 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 63 strikeouts in 53 innikngs).
The offensive leaders:
Blythewood: Andrew Beckwith (.359, 17 R, 22 RBI), Thomas Bessinger (.303, 21 R, 17 RBI), Dereck Croxton (.302, 19 R, 17 RBI), Aaron Dahm (.375, 28 R, 20 RBI), Connor Grant (.322, 20 R, 22 RBI), Ricky Kernan (.321, 23 R, 11 RBI), Chaz Mizzell (.333, 21 R, 14 RBI) and Tyler Romanik (.393, 17 R, 26 RBI).
Lexington: Nick Ciuffo .477, 5 HR, 31 RBI), Ryan Brown (.459, 36 R, 18 RBI), Dalton Addy (.393, 27 R, 13 RBI), Zach Paquette (.360, 12 R, 25 RBI), Brandon Camp (.327, 10 R, 10 RBI), David Barboza (.293, 13 R, 17 RBI), Cole McMillan (.284, 17 R, 15 RBI) and Cody Smith (.228, 18 R, 13 RBI).
The coaching match-up is intriguing, as well.
Brian Hucks, who played at Lexington under Tommy Williams, has 311 career wins in 14 seasons as a head coach at Lexington and rookland-Cayce. He is 53-11 in two seasons at his alma mater and his Wildcats have yet to lose at home during the Huck Era. Hucks was 2-0 in state championship series at B-C, winning 3A state titles in 2000 and 2008.
Barry Mizzell has 428 career wins in 26 seasons as a head coach at Orangeburg Prep, Richland Northeast and Blythewood. He has guided two teams to state championships OP in SCISA in 1989 and RNE in 4A in 2001. This is Blythewood first appearance in a state championship series.
Lexington has not won a state championship since 1999 and made it to the finals for the first time since 2003. The glory years under Williams featured 4A state titles in 1992, 1994 and 1999, and runner-up finishes in 1991 and 2003. The Wildcats were 1-4 in 3A state finals under long-time coach Otis Rawl.