Blythewood continues to live on the edge in the Class 4A state baseball playoffs, but the Bengals nonetheless have put themselves in the commanding position in District 4.
Twenty four hours after pulling out a 6-5 win over Fort Mill with a three-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning, Barry Mizzell’s third-ranked club scored a 1-0, nine-inning win over Boiling Springs on Friday to advance to the district championship round.
Blythewood (22-4) will host the district championship round on Wednesday needing one more win to advance to the Upper State tournament for the third time in the past four seasons.
“It was a heck of a game,” Mizzell said. “This is the playoffs, and all that matters is if you win, not how you win. At this point, you face good teams and the games usually are going to be close. It comes down to a big play here or there and you never know when it’s going to occur. But you have to hang tough and be ready to take advantage of the big opportunity when it presents itself.”
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Blythewood had little luck against sturdy Matthew Justice in regulation — managing three hits — but started to get to the fading right-hander in extra innings. The Bengals had runners on first and second base with one out in the eighth, but failed to score. The rally died when Drew Ellis, who opened the frame with a single, was thrown out at the plate by Bulldogs left-fielder Hunter Lipscomb on a single through the left side of the infield by Andrew Beckwith.
The scoreless duel ended in the ninth. Thomas Bessinger smacked Justice’s first pitch for a double to the gap in right-center field and moved up to third on a ground out by Connor Grant. Bessinger scored the winning run when Boiling Springs shortstop Caleb Morris could not handle a hot smash off the bat of Chaz Mizzell.
In the end, Blythewood’s combined pitching effort by Zack Hamilton and Allen Louthian was a bit better than Justice’s six-hit effort. Hamilton started and went four innings — allowing five hits with six strikeouts and no walks. Louthian was sensational in relief, serving up two hits in five innings with 10 strikeouts and no walks.
“You couldn’t have asked for better pitching from either side,” said Mizzell. “Their kid really battled. Zack was sharper than he’s been lately, and Allen really did a great job.”
The story was not so good for Blythewood’s fifth-ranked softball team, which fell into the District 4 loser’s bracket after taking a 9-3 hit by unranked Byrnes.
The Bengals (23-4) never recovered from a five-run, five-hit burst in the top of the first inning by the visiting Rebels. Byrnes (22-4) was masterful with bunts and slap hitting and put 22 runners on base. Blythewood was out-hit 13-11, but Byrnes was more adept at producing runs.
Blythewood will play at home on Monday needing a win to stay alive and rate another shot at the Rebels Wednesday on the road.
“We were totally out-coached today, unprepared for what they do,” Bengals coach Bucky Ware said. “We haven’t faced a whole lot of adversity this year, so it will be interesting to see how we respond.”