Blythewood stumbled out of the starting gate on Tuesday night, falling to host Spring Valley 7-6 in the regular season/Region 4-4A opener for both clubs.
The Bengals, ranked No. 3 in the preseason big-school coaches poll, are off to Georgetown tomorrow for the start of the start of the International Paper Classic. It’s the first time veteran coach Barry Mizzell has taken Blythewood to the venerable event. He made the trip several times during his time at Richland Northeast.
Blythewood faces Dorman in the opener of the 21st annual tournament on Thursday at 2:45 p.m. at Mike Johnson Stadium. The Bengals take on No. 1 Brynes at 1 p.m. on Friday in a rematch of last season's Upper State finale and complete bracket play at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday vs. No. 5 Wando. The team will have a fourth game either Saturday night or Sunday.
Mizzell’s veteran team was a bit sloppy on defense in its season opener, and failed to cash in when its put two runners on base with no outs in the top of the seventh inning.
“We didn’t get the bunt down, and couldn’t get the run in to at least tie up,” said Mizzell. “But the real problem was we gave made some costly errors that put us in the hole early. It was a typical first game of the season, but unfortunately it was a region game, too.”
With nine regulars returning, the Bengals have high expectations this spring after last season’s improbable run to the Final Four of the state playoffs. Blythewood finished with a 16-15 overall record in 2010.
At the top of the list is senior catcher Grayson Greiner, who hit .442 with nine home runs and 39 RBIs last season, and went 4-1 with a 3.29 ERA on the mound. Greiner, of course, has signed to play at South Carolina.
The remaining veteran cast includes junior first baseman Joe Haas, sophomore shortstop Thomas Bessinger, senior third baseman Taylor Purvis, senior third baseman Taylor Eubanks, senior outfielder Daniel Young (.491, 34 RBIs), junior centerfielder Brandon Burris (.291, 38 runs, 26 steals), junior outfielder Spencer Branham (.271, 24 runs) and junior outfielder Hayden Banks (2.56, 11 runs, 10 RBIs).
Bessinger (4-1, 3.00 ERA), Purvis (3-5, 3.71 ERA), Eubanks (2-2, 3.85 ERA) and senior Adam Lail join Greiner as the core of the pitching staff.