The young Blythewood softball team ran into a dose of cold, harsh reality on Saturday in the second round of the District 3 playoff tournament.
The Bengals (20-6) were simply no match for visiting J.L. Mann – a veteran team that won back-to-back Class 3A state championships (2009-10) before making the move up to 4A this spring.
The Patriots breezed to a 7-2 behind the overpowering pitching of Leslie Jury and a 15-hit attack. The wonder was Mann did not score a lot more runs. It took some very scrappy play by the Bengals to keep it as close as it was.
Jury, who is headed to the University of Alabama on scholarship, allowed only two hits and no earned runs. The fire-balling right-hander struck out 10 and walked two.
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Blythewood cut the JLM lead to 4-1 in the third and Blair Murphy crossed the plate when the Pats mishandled a two-out infield grounder off the bat of Ellen Cordova. The Bengals made it 4-2 with another unearned run in the sixth. Cordova worked a leadoff walk and scored when the Pats booted a two-out infield grounder by Jessica Ergle.
Mann’s offensive assault was impressively balanced. Five players had two-hit games, five players scored at least one run and five players had at least one RBI. But no one JLM batter had more than two hits, more than two runs score or more than two RBIs. The nominal headliners were catcher Kaitlin Ellenberg (two-run double) and center fielder Lindsay Waters (two-run single).
Freshman Lori Owens had the only Bengals safeties off Jury – a booming double off the left field fence to break up the no-hitter in the fourth and a clean single through the hole in the sixth.
J.L. Mann will be idle until Wednesday when its hosts the district finale. Blythewood will face either Wren or Northwestern in an elimination game at home on Monday.
The Patriots, 22-4 and ranked No. 2, shared the Region 2 championship with top-ranked Mauldin this season, but had to settle for a No. 2 district seed after the tiebreakers were consulted.