River Bluff ends Bengal playoff run

Emily Babbit (10) scored the Bengals’ only run with her in-the-park homer. | Ross Burton

IRMO – Emily Babbitt’s first-inning line-drive down the leftfield line escaped the reach of River Bluff left fielder Kendal Shealy Monday afternoon.

The hit to open the action in the 5A District VI Tournament game was strong and far enough for Babbitt to circle around the bases. Her inside-the-park home run gave Blythewood a 1-0 lead.

Unfortunately for the Bengals, that amounted to all the offense on the afternoon.

River Bluff picked up two runs in the third inning, then kept on hitting for nine more runs in the fifth inning to close the game with an 11-1 victory.

“Four and a third innings it was 2-1, and we just kind of fell apart,” Blythewood head coach Jordan Atkinson said. “Second, third and fourth innings we had runners in scoring position and we couldn’t move them over and didn’t capitalize. We didn’t get the big hit tonight.”

The Gators, 10-7, move on to play at Summerville in the district championship game. River Bluff must win twice to move into the lower state championship bracket.

Blythewood, which beat Florence 11-6 Thursday before falling 5-4 at Summerville Saturday, finishes the season 10-12.

After Babbitt’s score, starting pitcher Kendall Parker pitched two scoreless innings before the Gators got two runs in the bottom of the third.

McKaiah Wood led off the inning with a single, then Kourtney Culclasure got on board with a 1-out single and A.P. Pelfry singled to load the bases.

Then Atkinson called for Parker to intentionally walk cleanup hitter Kayla Oswell, knowing the move would tie the game at 1.

“We weren’t going to let their cleanup hitter beat us,” Atkinson said. “But everybody else hit around her. We got beat by them, but the best player didn’t hurt us.”

Mckenzie Price’s long sacrifice fly to Savannah Simpson in rightfield was far enough for Culclasure to score the go-ahead run.

Claire Cole flied out to end the inning, but the Gators were far from finished.

In the top of the fourth, Anna Fridrickson reached on a 2-out error and eventually moved to second, but the inning ended when Simpson hit into a fielder’s choice. Cole at shortstop threw to Pelfry at third, who tagged Fridrickson out to end the inning.

River Bluff came up empty in the fourth, but after a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the fifth, the Gators sent 12 batters to the plate.

In that inning River Bluff got four runs on five hits to chase Parker from the mound with nobody out to make it 6-1.

Babbitt came on in relief and got Maggie Sankev to ground out, but the Gators kept on hitting.

Wood singled in a run, another run came in on a wild pitch to Shealy to make it 8-1. After Shealy walked and Culclasure struck out for the second out, Wood came home on a Pelfry single to make it 9-1.

Oswell, who was intentionally walked again earlier in the fifth, finally got a chance to hit. She eventually swung on for a grounder up the middle that scored Shealy and Pelfry to close the game and the season out on the 10-run rule.

Blythewood loses two seniors, Sammy Hall and Savannah Simpson, but the team has a lot to build on for next year.

“They (Hall and Simpson) were four-year starters and worked really hard,” Atkinson said. “They were dreams to coach, awesome kids. I hate (ending the season on a loss) for them. But this year we had five new kids that had to play in big spots this year. Next year we’ll be young and we’re going to a new region next year, so it’ll be an exciting year.”

BHS – 1-0-0-0-0 – 1, 1, 3

RBHS -0-0-2-0-9 – 11, 11, 0

WP: Madi Craps. LP: Kendall Parker

Hitters: BHS – Emily Babbitt HR. RBHS– A.P. Pelfry 3-3, 2B.

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