Ellis, Bengals Dispose of Vikings

Blythewood workhorse Drew Ellis (22) delivers the goods from the mound. (Photo/Kristy Kimball Massey)

BLYTHEWOOD – Were it not for a fistful of frustrating infield errors in the bottom of the first, Tuesday night’s 4A Region IV meeting between Spring Valley and the Blythewood Bengals would have been an old-fashioned pitching duel between Blythewood’s Drew Ellis and Eric Laughead of the Vikings. But while Laughead tossed 16 strikes and only eight balls in the frame, his defense spit the bit three times, allowing the Bengals to stake Ellis to a 3-0 lead.

And although he got more down the stretch, three would be all the Blythewood righty would need as Ellis dazzled the Vikings with a complete game shutout. Ellis gave up only three hits, a pair of walks, hit one batter and struck out six in the win. Ellis hurled 107 pitches, 70 for strikes.

“We extended him a little bit,” Blythewood head coach Barry Mizzell said. “He threw about 100 pitches tonight, but he’s got it. He’s had a good outing every time. He’s the kind of guy we rely on right now and he gives us a good outing and he did it again tonight.”

Laughead, who probably deserved a better fate, was lifted after only two innings of work. Tagged for the loss, Laughead served but 42 pitches against 13 Bengal batters, splitting the balls and strikes baby with 21 apiece. The Spring Valley right-hander was forced into hard labor right away, as Blythewood’s leadoff man, Tyler Romanik, reached on the first pitch with an infield error that eventually sent him to second. Andrew Crook followed, also reaching on an infield error that sent him to second and Romanik to third. With only three pitches to his credit, Laughead was looking at two runners in scoring position with no outs. Blythewood’s Connor Grant then grounded out to second, but delivered the RBI, plating Romanik. Ellis doubled Crook home, lining a 2-1 pitch into the gap in left-center. Ryan Malone, the five-hole hitter, worked the count full and fouled off a trio of Laughead’s offers before Laughead recorded the strikeout for out number two. Ellis came home on the next pitch, as Toby Robson reached first on the third Viking error of the frame.

“They booted it around and in baseball games, most baseball games you watch, they’re won with pitching and defense,” Mizzell said. “You play good defense and if you can pitch, you got a shot. They pitched pretty well after (Laughead); they brought in (Griffin Hollifield) and he flipped it up there and we didn’t have very good at-bats, but they made some mistakes and gave us some openings.”

Hollifield, a sidewinding righty, came on in the third and pestered the Bengals for three strong innings, giving up a hit, walking one and striking out a pair.

“He was throwing a little sidearm sinking pitch and you’ve got to stay back and we’re jumping after balls,” Mizzell said. “We’ve been struggling a little bit at the plate. I think we’re thinking too much.”

Hollifield’s effort held the Bengals advantage at 3-0 until the bottom of the sixth, when the Bengals were finally able to break through, playing station-to-station ball to bring five more runs around and clear the batting order. Chase Matthews came off the bench in the sixth to get the merry-go-round started with an 0-1 leadoff single. Walt Ballentine followed with a 1-0 single and Hollifield plunked Barrett Grant with the first pitch to load the bases. Romanik delivered a towering sacrifice fly to left to plate Justin Lang-Spittler, pinch-running for Matthews to make it 4-0. Crook reached on a fielder’s choice that brought Ballentine around. With a 1-2 count, Grant fouled off a pair before delivering an RBI single, and Ellis drew a free pass for the easy RBI. After Malone popped out to second for out number two, Robson reached first on yet another infield error that also brought in Grant for the final run.

Ellis never faced anything more than the most minor of troubles Tuesday night, retiring the Viking in order in the first and third innings and facing only four batters in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. His defense backed him up all the way, committing but one error, which allowed the leadoff batter to reach in the top of the seventh. But like six of his fellow Vikings, he was left stranded by Ellis and the Bengal defense.

“I was proud of the way we played,” Mizzell said. “We’re hustling, we played hard and we’re playing good defense.”

The Bengals are now 2-1 in region play, their only loss to region leader Lugoff-Elgin, 7-3, last Friday. This Friday, the Bengals host Ridge View at 5 p.m.

SV – 0-0-0-0-0-0-0 – 0-3-4

B – 3-0-0-0-0-5-x – 8-5-1

WP: Drew Ellis (B). LP: Eric Laughead.

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