The Blythewood Bengals held off a rally from upstart River Bluff to win 5-2 in their third game at the S.C. Diamond Invitational on Friday.
“It’s always good to play back-to-back days,” Blythewood coach Barry Mizell said. “Your hitters get to see a lot of pitching. and our kids responded really well.”
Blythewood did most of its hitting, and all of its scoring, in two innings, taking a four-run lead in the top of the second.
Drew Ellis smashed a two-run homer 390 feet over the centerfield fence. Tyler Romanik and Barrett Grant also drove in runs in the frame.
The Gators looked to respond in the bottom of the inning, with right-fielder Brandon Tillmon sending a leadoff home run out of right-centerfield. But the Bengals stopped them there.
In the top of the third, Justin Lang-Spittler’s ground ball single into right field sent Walt Ballentine across to cap Blythewood’s scoring.
From there, the Bengal defense worked to stave off the perseverant Gators.
“We pitched pretty well and we played pretty good defense today,” Mizzell said.
River Bluff was scoreless in the third and fourth, as the Bengals shut down the Gators’ rally attempts despite allowing hits from Aaron Adams and Harrison Kinard. Then in the fifth, with rain moving in, Will Braford hit a two-out single. Two at-bats later, Reece Burnett batted him in with a single and took second on the throw to bring up Tillmon. He walked to load the bases and put the tying run on first.
But the Bengals picked up the final out to preserve the lead. Bengals pitcher Tripper Ergle finished out the last two innings, and was credited with a save. The Gators left 11 runners stranded in the game.
“We hit some balls hard but we hit them right at ’em,” Gators coach Mark Bonnette said. “Our kids have battled to the end, I’m proud of that.”
“This is where we want to be,” he said. “I was little bit nervous putting our young team in this tournament, but our kids have responded and battled, and it’s only going to make us better in the long run.”
Blythewood’s Ryan Mallone and River Bluff’s Harrison Kinard were the game’s multiple hitters, each going 2-for-3. Ellis and Gators’ first baseman Sean Parsons each had 10 putouts.