One can make a good case that the Blythewood Bengals were the surprise team of the year in Midlands baseball this spring.
The young team struggled to find an identity in the early going against a parade of challenging foes – in an out of Region 4-4A. On April 13, the Bengals stood at 8-11 in the wake of a loss to archrival Ridge View.
Then, Barry Mizzell’s youthful bunch caught fire – winning eight of their final 11 games. Included was an improbable run to a District 1 playoff championship as a No. 4 seed and determined charge to the finals of the Upper State tournament before being eliminated by Byrnes.
In the end, Blythewood finished with a 16-14 record.
“We started out slow with a very young team but we got hot at the right time,” said Mizzell. “This team really improved throughout the year and had great team chemistry at the end.”
The good news is only two senior regulars – second baseman Alec Shettle (.288) and pitcher Woody Paschal (2-4, 3.20 ERA) – are departing, which augurs well for continued success in 2011.
“We’ll have a lot of returning players that experienced some success and gained great experience during the playoffs and we hope that we can build on the success that we had at the end of the season,” said Mizzell. “We also have some good young players coming up that will create some competition.”
The returning crew features all-region picks Grayson Greiner and Daniel Young. Greiner, a two-time all-state selection, posted a .442 batting average and a 1.467 OPS in his junior season. The USC-bound catcher belted nine home runs, scored 38 runs and rang up 39 RBIs and also contributed on the hill with a 4-1 record and a 3.29 ERA. Young was nearly as productive offensively - .491 average, 1.133 OPS, 20 runs, 34 RBIs.
Joe Haas (.234, 13 RBI), Thomas Bessinger (18 runs), Taylor Purvis (3-5, 3.71 ERA), Taylor Eubanks (2-2, 3.85 ERA), Brandon Burris (.291, 38 R), Spencer Branham (.271, 24 R) and Hayden Banks (.256) are the other regulars expected to return.