Bengals take District IV title

Brady Beasley (11) led the Bengals with three hits and two RBIs in Monday’s win over Riverside. | Ross Burton

BLYTHEWOOD – In the last inning of the final game of the District IV Tournament Monday night, Blythewood finally dealt Riverside, which had topped the Bengals 5-3 in the first game, a crushing blow.

The Bengals’ four-run seventh inning prevented an early exit from the 5A postseason.

Josh Cowan setting the Warriors down on two strikeouts and a groundout in the bottom of that frame sealed the 5-2 victory in the deciding game that gave Blythewood its first district championship since 2013.

“We’ve all worked so hard,” Brady Beasley said. “We knew we didn’t want this to be the last inning we ever played. We took it to another level and played really hard to finish it out.”

Blythewood (22-8) moves on to the upper state tournament. The Bengals play the District III champion Fort Mill at Blythewood Thursday. Fort Mill won its title with a 2-1 victory over T.L. Hanna.

What moved the Bengals into the tournament wasn’t just the hard work at batting, defense, baserunning, and pitching. The reason Blythewood remains alive is patience and devotion, head coach Banks Faulkner said.

“I thought we competed all day and I’ve just been trying to tell them that if you play the game right and you respect it,” Faulkner said, “the game usually works itself out. Thankfully we were able to get a couple things to go our way.”

Down 2-1 to open the seventh inning, the Bengals loaded the bases against three Riverside pitchers with nobody out.

Riverside starting pitcher Andrew Volz gave up a single to Zach Bailes and made way for Parker Krugelwicz. Krugelwicz faced only Landon Lucas, who promptly singled Nate Hinson and made way for Riverside reliever Adam Koelsch.

Koelsch got started on the Bengals right off. He hit John Lanier to load the bases, then walked Jansen Stokes which allowed Zach Bailes to score the tying run.

Nate Hinson then chopped a ball high toward Landon Shaw at shortstop. By the time Shaw could get a hold of it, Lucas was charging home from third and dove head first into the plate for the go-ahead run.

“Just stay poised and stay relaxed,” Faulkner said he would remind the team in tough innings. “Six weeks ago I questioned the toughness in a closed-door meeting, and since then we’ve been unbelievable.”

Up to that point the Warriors played confident and loose throughout both games. Riverside’s Caden Grice worked a complete game in the first game, scattering seven hits. Even though Lanier tagged him for a 2-run home run that gave Blythewood a brief lead, the Bengals could not get around him. Grice struck out 7 and walked one.

With Grice on the mound, Riverside’s 2-run first and 2-run fourth was all it needed to put the Bengals away in the first game.

“I thought we had some really good at-bats against a really good arm,” Faulkner said. “Some things just didn’t go our way. We hit some balls hard in the second game, and we were finally able to get some runners on and create some chaos, which is what we like to do.”

The seventh inning of the deciding game was as long as Riverside’s hold could last.

Once Blythewood had finally taken a 3-2 lead, a cold silence muted the loud bluster that had come from the Warriors’ dugout for the greater part of Monday afternoon.

When Beasley dropped a 1-out single that nearly ate up centerfielder Collin Fowler, his hit was like a punch to every ery Riverside player. As Fowler fumbled, Lanier scored easily and Stokes rounded third and ultimately pounced on the plate to give the Bengals a 5-2 lead.

“We got some tough kids, man,” Faulkner said. “None of us are ready for our season to end.”

Defeat was so evident on the faces of the Warriors that Cowan needed just 11 pitches to earn the save.

“I’ve had some slumps here and there, but I just stuck with the plan.” Beasley said. “It’s so exciting. We worked so hard as a team and I’m glad we can all experience this together and hopefully keep on going.”

 Wednesday: Blythewood 7, Greenwood 0

GHS – 0-0-0-0-0-0-0 – 0, 2, 0

BHS – 2-0-3-0-2-0-X – 7, 7, 0

WP: Landon Lucas (6-0) LP: Garrett Major

HITTERS: BHS – Jansen Stokes 2-3, 2 HR, Sac Fly. Zach Bailes 2-4

Monday, Game 1: Riverside 5, Blythewood 3

RHS – 2-0-0-2-1-0-0 – 5, 7, 3

BHS – 0-1-2-0-2-0-0 – 3, 7, 0

WP: Caden Grice LP: Davis Wright

HITTERS: BHS – John Lanier 2-4, HR. RHS – Brody Fahr 2-4.

 Game 2: Blythewood 5, Riverside 2

BHS – 1-0-0-0-0-0-4 – 5, 9, 1

RHS – 2-0-0-0-0-0-0 – 2, 5, 3

WP: John Lanier (8-2) LP: Parker Krugelwicz Save: Josh Cowan

HITTERS: BHS – Brady Beasley 3-3, Josh Cowan 2-4, Landon Lucas 2-4. RHS – Landon Shaw 2-3, Caden Grice 2B.