Blythewood wins playoff opener over Byrnes

John Lanier (21) took the mound for the Bengals. | Martha Ladd

The Blythewood baseball team had an opportunity for a big inning Tuesday night.

Instead, the Bengals eked out a victory using baserunning and gut-check pitching against Byrnes in the opening game of the 5A District IV Tournament.

Blythewood scored two runs apiece in the third and fourth innings, then blunted a 2-run Rebels Rally in the fifth on the way to a 4-2 victory to start the four-team double-elimination tournament.

“We left a few runners out there, but hats off to their pitcher, we knew it was gonna be a dogfight,” Blythewood head coach Banks Faulkner said. “We were prepared for that. You just find a way to score one more than the other team.”

Top-seeded Blythewood (20-7) plays host to No.2 Greenwood Thursday night. The Bulldogs beat No.3 Riverside 6-1 Tuesday. Byrnes travels to face the Warriors Thursday in an elimination game.

Dylan Mullinax gave up all four Blythewood runs on nine hits in his complete-game effort, but seemed to strengthen after the Byrnes cut off the Bengals’ scoring burst in the third inning.

Michael Gregory and Harrison Lambert opened that frame slapping back-to-back singles to leftfield. Zach Bailes bunted safely on the left side to load the bases for Landon Lucas.

Lucas hit a ground ball to Byrnes third baseman Carson Durham, who tagged Lambert out along the basepaths. That fielder’s choice scored Gregory for the first run of the game.

With Bailes at second and Lucas at first, John Lanier punched the ball into leftfield for a long single that enabled Bailes to score from second.

With one out, Jansen Stokes loaded the bases again for the Bengals with another bunt single.

Just as Blythewood looked to put up more runs, Josh Cowan popped out and Nate Hinson struck out to retire the side.

Blythewood got two more runs in the fourth inning when Lambert’s one-out single scored Brady Beasley. Lambert scored when Lucas reached on a two-out error.

While the run total wasn’t as high as it could be as Blythewood stranded seven baserunners, the bunting and baserunning intelligence of the team showed.

“That allowed us to win the game,” Faulkner said. “That’s just what we do, we apply a lot of pressure. We take a lot of pride in that, the short game, running bases, trying to win some games with our IQ, and tonight it paid dividends.”

With Blythewood up 4-0, starting pitcher John Lanier started to lose his way on the mound. Lanier had 1-hit the Rebels through four innings, but he gave up two runs on three hits in the fifth as Byrnes bounced back into the game.

While striking out Clay Cox to retire the side in the fifth, Lanier faced three batters in the sixth before Faulkner replaced him with catcher Josh Cowan.

Cowan pitched the final 1-2/3 innings, striking out Cox in the seventh to get the save.

BLYTHEWOOD 4, BYRNES 2

BYRNES -0-0-0-0-2-0-0 – 2, 6, 1

BLYTHEWOOD – 0-0-2-2-0-0-X    – 4, 9, 0

 WP: John Lanier Save: Josh Cowan LP: Dylan Mullinax

HITTERS: Blythewood – John Lanier 2-3. Harrison Lambert 2-2. Byrnes – Hobie Sprouse 2-2.