Lady Bengals Double-Down on Nation Ford

Blythewood’s Ellen Cordova avoids the tag.

After a 9-4 loss to Byrnes last Friday, the Lady Bengals softball team was forced into the loser’s bracket.  On the brink of elimination, Blythewood (24-4) squeezed past the Lady Falcons of Nation Ford with a 1-0 victory Monday night.  Blythewood defeated Nation Ford 5-1 in the opening game of the 2013 playoffs, but the Lady Falcons used a 12-7 win over Laurens to keep their playoff ship afloat before Blythewood would sink their championship hopes permanently.  The Lady Bengals gave up just two walks and only committed one error.

“We got some very impressive pitching and defense tonight,” Bengals’ head coach Bucky Ware said.  “That’s the kind of ball we like to play and if we can play that way we’re going to win.”

Nation Ford left a total of eight runners on base and the tone was set early in the game when they left two runners on base in both the first and second inning.

“Coming out in the first inning and not giving up a score with runners on base was huge,” Ware said.

The Lady Bengals were able to take advantage of Nation Ford’s missed opportunities by scoring their lone run in the first inning.  After the first two hitters grounded out, Jessica Roth lifted a two-ball one-strike pitch to the opposite field for a two-out triple.  The next hitter, Katie Chappell, would waste no time cashing in the run as she swung at the first pitch and smashed it back up the middle for an RBI single.

“(Roth) has been one of our biggest offensive weapons all year,” Ware said.  “She is a good all-around hitter.”

Roth has hit a school-record 10 home runs this season and against Nation Ford was 3-for-3 with a single, a double and a triple.  Blythewood handed Haley Hammond her second loss in five days.  Hammond gave up one run on seven hits, one walk and struck out two.  The winning pitcher, Chappell (15-4), earned her 15th win of the season and seemed to get stronger as the game went on.  She never faced more than five batters in an inning and threw 10 first-pitch strikes to her final 11 batters faced.

“(Chappell) pitched very well,” Ware said.  “She was always around the plate making them put the ball in play and our defense backed her up.”

Chappell went all seven innings giving up no runs on six hits, two walks and four strikeouts.  She never gave up an extra-base hit and ended the first three innings with strikeouts.  For Blythewood it was their 13th shutout of the season in 28 games played.

Thursday night, the Lady Bengals opened the postseason with a 5-1 win over these same Lady Falcons.

Almost all of the relevant action occurred in the first and second innings. Batting first, the Falcons went three-up, three down. Blythewood starter Katie Chappell walked the first batter, but the second hit one right to Blair Murphy at second base for the force out and Murphy pegged it to Jessica Roth at first for the double play.

The Bengal’s big inning was the bottom of the first. Ellen Cordoba bunted one to the pitcher who had trouble getting possession of the ball, allowing Cordoba to single. Bailey Newman walked, and Roth bunted to the third baseman. A moment of indecision on the part of the Falcon third baseman allowed Blythewood to load the bases. Chappell hit a single, scoring one run. The next batter, Lori Owens, hit a big fly ball into the gap between left and center field. Owens got as far as second base, but three runs scored, giving the Bengals a 4-0 lead.

The top of the second inning began with a single by Lauren Kidd. The next batter hit an easy pop up to center field for the out. The pitcher, Brooke McCurry, walked and Carolyn Thompson smacked a grounder past the shortstop to center field to load the bases. Lexie Mitchell was next up for Nation Ford. She hit a long ground ball to left field, scoring Kidd. Ashley Trull struck out on a called strike, and Mandy Mitchell was thrown out at first to retire the side, but the Lady Bengals had built a 4-1 lead.

In the bottom of the sixth, Ansley Gilstrap hit the longest ball of the night into the left field gap. The ball hit the top of the fence, but bounced back into the park instead of outside for the homer. Gilstrap made it all the way to third base, however. On a passed ball, Gilstrap scored, making it a 5-1 ballgame.

Chappell earned the win for the Lady Bengals, with one strikeout looking, three strikeouts swinging, three walks and no passed balls or wild pitches.

The losing pitcher was McCurry with one strikeout looking, one strikeout swinging, four walks, two passed balls and no wild pitches.

Monday night’s 24th win of the season tied a school record. The Lady Bengals will try to set a new school record with their 25th win of the season at Byrnes on Wednesday (May 1) in the district IV championship round.  Byrnes cemented their spot in the district championship with a 3-2 win over Laurens and a 9-4 victory at Blythewood.  The Lady Bengals will have to win two in a row against Byrnes to advance to the Upper State championship bracket.  Ware looks forward to the challenge but knows his Lady Bengals will need to step it up in order to move on.

“We’re going to have to score more than one run to win,” Ware said.  “But if we can hold them to zero, that’s what we want to do.”

First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Byrnes.

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