Lady Bengals Win Eighth Straight Title

The Blythewood Lady Bengals softball team (19-3, 9-1) wrapped up their regular season Tuesday night and secured their eighth straight region championship with a 9-4 victory over the Lady Blazers of Ridge View in a rivalry game. Not only was the region championship on the line, but for Ridge View they needed a win to clinch a playoff spot. Blythewood head coach Bucky Ware knew that Tuesday night’s contest was more than just a regular season game against their local rivals.

“We knew it was going to be a fight from the beginning,” Ware said. “We played our hearts out and fortunately made enough plays to come out on top.”

Blythewood struck first by scoring two runs in the second inning. Ansley Gilstrap and Ashlee Romanik each hit an RBI double to take the early lead at 2-0. Gilstrap was a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate with three singles, a double, one run scored and three runs batted in. Ridge View countered in the bottom of the second with a run of their own. The Lady Blazers number eight and nine hitters each came through with two-out singles and then the number one hitter, Madison Stone, knocked in Ridge View’s first run with a single to cut Blythewood’s lead to 2-1. Stone finished 3-for-3 at the plate with two runs batted in. In the third inning Blythewood’s first baseman, Jessica Roth, lifted a pitch over the left field fence for a two-run blast stretching the Lady Bengals lead to 4-1. It was the 10th homer of the year for Roth as she continues to extend her single season home run record at Blythewood. Ware believes that scoring early and often was the key to the Lady Bengals success.

“Getting those runs early was big,” Ware said. “It gave us the upper hand and allowed us to gain confidence and pick up momentum as the game went on.”

But with a playoff spot on the line Ridge View continued to hang around by scoring another run in the bottom of the third inning. With two outs and a runner at second base, Blythewood’s starting pitcher, Ellen Cordova, gave up a single to cut the Lady Bengals lead to 4-2. After three hit batters, two wild pitches, one walk and two runs on five hits, Cordova’s night was done. Romanik came on in relief and went the final four and one-third innings, allowing two runs on six hits with two strikeouts. Ware had confidence in Ware to finish out the game.

“We knew Ashlee (Romanik) could come in and throw strikes,” Ware said. “The defense played well behind her and we were able to survive any threat Ridge View presented.”

Blythewood took a commanding lead in the top of fourth when they scored three runs off of five hits and sent eight batters to the plate. With two outs in the inning the fourth, fifth and sixth hitters (Katie Chappell, Lori Owens and Gilstrap respectively) came through with RBI singles to give the Lady Bengals a 7-2 advantage. Each team would add a run in the sixth and seventh innings but Ridge View couldn’t put together a big enough rally to overtake Blythewood as the Lady Bengals went on to win 9-4. Ridge View’s starter, Naja Hough, took the loss for the Lady Blazers after allowing nine runs on 16 hits in seven innings of work. The softball program at Blythewood has won the region title each year it’s been in existence and Ware knows that it’s a tradition ever since the first one in 2005.

“Once you have a taste of that success you want more of it,” Ware said. “It’s fun to have that target on our backs each year and every year the incoming class wants to continue that winning trend.”

The Lady Bengals will start their 2013 playoff run at home against Nation Ford on Thursday (April 25). First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m.