Bengals go 2-1 before season halt

BLYTHEWOOD – The Blythewood baseball team finds itself 4-1-1 going into a long break imposed because of the state’s precautions taken with the spread of the Coronavirus.

After the team’s 2-0-1 effort in the NatureChem Invitational tournament the weekend before, the Bengals topped West Florence 1-0 Wednesday, went to T.L. Hanna and leveled the Yellow Jackets 10-2 Thursday, then fell 8-2 to Mauldin Saturday at Fluor Field.

The next day, Gov. Henry McMaster closed all South Carolina public schools through March 31. Then South Carolina High School League officials met Monday afternoon and decided to suspend all athletic activities through April 5. While not cancelling the entire spring season outright, the League will decide then whether to cancel athletic activities and events for the rest of the spring.

The decision stalls the Bengals’ quest to return to the 5A state championship series. Dutch Fork defeated Blythewood two games to one in the best-of-3 series, and since that final out in May, the Bengals have been putting in the work to return.

The effort showed in the few games the Bengals played before the suspension.

Zac Cowan (8) at the plate in last Wednesday’s game against West Florence. | Millie Lambert

Landon Lucas banged out the only Bengals hit Wednesday afternoon in the second at-bat of the game against West Florence, but thanks to Zac Cowan’s formidable pitching effort, Blythewood didn’t need much more.

Cowan 2-hit the Knights in a complete-game shutout, and his sacrifice fly delivered Michael Gregory to the plate in the third inning of the Bengals’ 1-0 victory at the Blythewood baseball field.

“Man he was good. He was super. That game was all about him,” Blythewood head coach Banks Faulkner said after the West Florence game. “We like him. He’s been a kid who hasn’t pitched a ton. We wanted to get him out there Sunday (the final day of the NaturChem Invitational) but we didn’t do enough to get into the championship.”

Cowan struck out seven and walked none. The only hits he gave up were Jordan Earle’s single to right field in the second and Mack Faile’s fly ball that landed between defenders in the right-centerfield gap with one out in the seventh.

West Florence pitching stymied Blythewood batters. Three Knights pitchers combined to no-hit the Bengals after the first inning.

“They did a good job changing speeds, and they took away our running game,” Faulkner said. “Their pitchers were just slide-stepping to the plate and there was absolutely nothing there. We had to just sort of stand there and hit, and we struggled to do that.”

The bats didn’t come around that Wednesday, but Faulkner said they would come around.

“We’re gonna be a good offensive team, but we’re fighting it a little bit,” Faulkner said. “We’ve got to get some guys going. Getting (lead-off man Michael) Gregory back tonight was a big thing for us.”

The Bengals showed off some offensive production in the 10-2 win at T.L. Hanna Thursday. Colton Harman went 3-3 with a pair of doubles and four RBI. Lucas and Stokes both homered, with Lucas adding a double. Brady Beasley also doubled. 

Lucas’ homer in the first inning got Blythewood on the scoreboard. Stokes went deep in Bengals’ 3-run fourth inning as the Bengals took an 8-0 lead. They picked up two runs in the sixth.

Four Blythewood pitchers, Lucas, Ben Blackwell, Camden Wats and Watson Saunders, combined to scatter five hits and strike out 13 Yellow Jackets batters.

The Yellow Jackets got a run in the fourth and another in the sixth.

The Bengals’ first loss of the season came Saturday when a 5-run fourth inning lifted Mauldin to an 8-3 win at Greenville’s Fluor Field. The Mavericks sent 11 batters to the plate and jumped to a 6-2 lead on three hits, and an infield error.

Blythewood pitching hit a snag in the inning. Kevin Steelman came on in relief of starter Davis Wright after he gave up a single and a double to start the frame. Steelman issued three walks, hit three batters, and gave up a hit. Connor Weathers relieved Steelman and got the final out of the inning.

West Florence – 0-0-0-0-0-0-0 – 0-2-2

Blythewood – 0-0-1-0-0-0-X – 1-1-0

Blythewood – 2-2-1-3-0-2-0 – 10-11-0

T.L. Hanna – 0-0-0 -0-1-0 – 2-5-3

Hitters: Colton Harman 3-3, 2 2B. Landon Lucas 2-4, HR, 2B. Jansen Stokes HR. Brady Beasley 2B.

Blythewood -1-0-1-0-0-1-0 – 3-5-3

Mauldin – 1-0-0-5-2-0-X – 8-6-0