Blythewood continued itS winning ways with another excellent pitching performance on Friday night, but one swing of the bat by Ridge View’s Mitchell Price in the top of the seventh inning turned what was shaping up to be a spectacular performance into just another win.
For the record, the Bengals prevailed 3-1 to improve to 9-3 overall and Region 4-4A. Blythewood is 7-1 after opening the season with a 2-2 showing at the Red Bank Invitational preseason tournament.
Price, however, smoked a double to the gap in left-center field on the ninth pitch of his at bat to score Logan Sherry with a run that ended a streak of 25 consecutive scoreless innings by Bengal pitching. The safety also ruined a no-hit bid by senior right-hander Zack Hamilton.
Hamilton retired 18 of the 19 Blazers he faced in the first six innings before hitting the wall in the seventh. Things began coming apart after he walked RV leadoff hitter Sherry in the seventh after getting ahead 0-2 in the count. Price then fouled off several pitches to stay alive and eventually solve Hamilton.
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Hamilton then seemed to be ready to close out the game in style by striking out James Sims and Marion Brown, but when he walked Blazer catcher Bryce Patrick to put the tying run at first base and the bring the potential winning run to the plate, Barry Mizzell had seen enough and brought in Allen Louthian to close it down.
“We probably should have taken Zack out earlier,” said the Blythewood coach. “His pitch count was higher than normal, and though he was in a great position when he started the inning with the 0-2 count, he just couldn’t finish. He walked three guys in the game after walking only two in all of his other games, so he wasn’t quite as sharp as usual. But he still pitched very well.”
Louthian did pick up a save, though he never threw a pitch. After warming up, Louthian looked in for the sign, stepped off the rubber and faked a pickoff throw. First baseman Chaz Mizzell made a lunge at the apparent wild throw but it was all a ruse to confuse Allen Gardner, who was running for Patrick. Gardner started to run to second base, but froze when he realized that Louthian never threw the ball and was running over to tag him out and end the game on a bizarre note.
“It was a planned play all the way,” said Mizzell. “They had just put a new guy in to run and we had nothing to lose by giving it a shot. If it didn’t work, we were no worse off.”
But while the seventh inning ruined a great story, the performance by Hamilton did nothing to blemish Blythewood’s remarkable run of pitching excellence. The Bengal staff boasts a 0.38 ERA and a spectacular 0.700 WHIP during the regular season.
“We knew he had good pitching coming into the season,” said Mizzell. “Zack won a lot of games for us last season, but lack of control was his Achilles heal. This year he’s been throwing his breaking ball for strikes and that’s given him a lot of confidence. Andrew Beckwith has always been a strike thrower and we have some depth behind our top two guys.”
To date, Hamilton is 4-0 with a 0.30 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 23.2 innings. He has allowed just 11 hits and issued five walks. Beckwith is 3-1 with a 0.53 ERA and 33 whiffs in 26 innings. He’s issued just one free pass and served up 17 hits.
All of Blytherwood’s runs came in the second inning off Blazer starter Chris Moody. Ricky Kernan drew a one-out walk and advanced to third on a double by Derek Croxton. Both came dashed home on Connor Grant’s single to center field. Grant eventually scored on a sacrifce fly off the bat of Tyler Romanik.
Ridge View fell to 3-8, 0-4.