Bengals avenge Spring Valley loss

COLUMBIA – Two days after coming up short against Spring Valley on Senior Night, Blythewood turned the tables on the Vikings at their home park Thursday night.

The Bengals opened the game with an 8-run first inning and held on for an 11-5 victory to close out the regular season tied for fourth place in Region V-5A.

“We had a tough one Monday (actually Tuesday), and we hit a buzzsaw at Lexington, they’re a really good team,” Blythewood head coach Banks Faulkner said. “We challenged them to throw a big number up in the first inning. That’s something we haven’t done, we sort of wait around and start scoring runs later on.”

The Bengals, 14-10 overall, finish the region 6-5. Lexington clinched the region title with a 6-0 victory over Blythewood Wednesday. River Bluff finished second. Dutch Fork, at 6-4 with two games to play on its schedule, is likely to hold at third.

Michael Gregory (12) takes a hard cut at the blazing Spring Valley pitch. | Kristy Massey

Blythewood, which gave up five runs to Spring Valley early in their Tuesday game, caused a reversal of fortune Thursday. With two outs and John Lanier at second base after having walked, the Bengals kept Spring Valley starter Taylor Baker working.

Baker hit Josh Cowan, Janson Stokes drove in Lanier on a bun single to score the first run. Michael Gregory then singled in Cowan for the second run and moved Stokes to third.

Baker hit Colin Jones to load the bases, and from there the action kept steady.

Jordan Flemming laid down a strong bunt between the third-base line and the pitcher’s mound that was just enough to score Stokes for the third run of the inning and keep the bases loaded.

Back-to-back doubles from Nate Hinson and Landon Lucas were the equivalent of a grand slam.

Hinson’s double drove in Zach Bailes, pinch running for Jones, and Gregory. Lucas’s double scored Flemming and Hinson to make it 7-0.

Lanier singled to left for the final run of the inning.

“It’s just about getting the leadoff guy on, and then we can start running our offense,” Faulkner said. “We had some different guys in there tonight, trying to get our catcher a night off. Colin did a good job behind the plate and the bottom of the order was good. Hinson’s had a couple of good games offensively. Gregory is gonna be a really good player, you see it in spurts. Flemming is always a good batter, and with the bases loaded he laid down the perfect bunt that kept the train rolling.”

Baker hit Brady Beasley—the third Blythewood batter to be hit in the frame—to put runners on the corners for Cowan. The Bengals designated hitter bounced to Baker, who ran to first unassisted to end the inning.

In spite of giving up six hits and hitting three batters, Baker summoned some composure over the next four innings. Although he hit two more Bengals in the fifth inning, the Vikings starter gave up just two hits after the first and struck out three.

“Hats off to him,” Faulkner said of Baker. “A lot of guys would have folded it up, but he kept battling.”

Spring Valley got a run in the third and three more in the bottom of the fifth to cut Blythewood’s lead to 8-4 going into the sixth.

Once Baker worked five full innings, reliver Winston Dyer came on to start the sixth.

Lucas, who started on the mound and gave up four runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings of work, led off the sixth inning with a solo home run over the fence in leftfield to make it 9-4 Bengals.

Spring Valley got that run back in the bottom of the sixth, but Blythewood scored two more runs off the Vikings’ third pitcher of the night, Hunter Rogers.

Alex Canino relived Lucas in the fifth and got the final out. He worked the sixth and seventh innings to secure the win for Blythewood.

Blythewood’s fourth-place finish in Region V will put the Bengals on the road to face Region VII runner-up Sumter Tuesday.

“We like the draw,” Faulkner said. “It’s just a matter of us putting all three phases of the game together.”

BHS – 8-0-0-0-0-1-2 – 11, 11, 3

SVHS – 0-0-1-0-3-1-0 – 5, 6, 1

WP: Landon Lucas LP: Taylor Baker

Hitters: Blythewood – John Lanier 2-4, 2B. Michael Gregory 2-4. Janson Stokes 2-4. Landon Lucas 2-5, HR, 2B. Spring Valley – Khyree Miller 2-3.