Bengal baseball survives with win over Nation Ford

BLYLTHEWOOD – A 4-1 loss to J.L. Mann in the first game of the upper state District 1 tournament Friday put the Blythewood baseball team’s backs to the wall. On Monday, with a 5-3 losers bracket victory over Nation Ford, the Bengals stayed alive.

Bengals ace Kevin Steelman pitched a complete game in spite of some struggling with control and location on the mound. Backed by his infield, Steelman got out of jams in spite of giving up seven hits and walking three. He struck out four and powered through a night of 109 pitches.

“He’s a winner. He’s got guts,” head coach Banks Faulkner said. “He didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled and battled. He’s been in these kinds of games before. We told him before the game, we’re going to let him ride, 110 (pitches), as many as he could go, and our hat’s off to him, he was incredible. He willed our team to victory.”

Steelman himself said going the distance on the mound in the playoffs wasn’t that difficult.

“It doesn’t really feel like anything, if I’m being honest, it’s just there,” Steelman said. “It’s easy,

Just go out there and compete, compete as hard as you can. We can’t lose. If we lose, the season’s done. All week we’ve been talking about making sure we live another day.”

The Falcons, who lost 10-1 at Dorman Friday, were eliminated from the postseason. Blythewood (23-4) met the Patriots at home again Wednesday, with the winner traveling to Dorman Friday for the district championship. Dorman beat J.L. Mann 9-3 Monday.

Getting on the scoreboard early was, and always has been, the key for Blythewood Monday, and was doubly important as Nation Ford had already scored by the time the Bengals came to bat. Leadoff batter Kenan Bowman reached on an error and scored on Gabe Simmons’ one-out double to rightfield. Steelman recovered to strike out Justin Lehman and Eric Yelton ended the inning on a groundout.

Blythewood got that run back in the bottom of the first. When Ty Dooley laced a 2-out single into rightfield to score Zac Cowan, who led off the inning with a base hit and had eventually moved to third. Caleb McCants, who drew a walk before Dooley hit, moved to second, but Steelman stranded him when he struck out.

“I thought it was important when we answered there in the first,” Faulkner said. “After the other night, it’s tough when you sort of gift-wrap a run for them early. It was big to answer there and let our guys sort of settle in. This is the first time playing in the playoffs for a lot of these guys.”

The Falcons got another run in the second when Rylee Ashworth doubled, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored when Steven Johnson grounded out. With two out, Steelman struck out Baker to retire the side.

The Bengals finally got a crooked number on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second. Cowan’s 2-out single scored Landon Penfield’s courtesy runner, Ryan Hunter to even the score at 2. Just as he did in the first inning, Cowan moved to second on a wild pitch, then stole third to set up Nevil’s RBI infield single to make it 3-2 Blythewood. Nevils got caught stealing to end the inning.

After a scoreless third, Nation Ford opened the fourth with Seth Hanson’s one-out triple. Ashworth singled in Hanson for the tying run. That’s all the Bengals would allow, as Johnson flied out and Miles Baker grounded out.

Blythewood scored two runs in its half of the fifth, which proved the difference.

Cowan got his third base hit of the night to lead off the frame, then Saunders drew a one-out walk. McCants then grounded a single into leftfield, which was good enough to score Cowan from second and bring Saunders to third. After Dooley struck out, Saunders scored on a wild pitch as Steelman batted.

Steelman grounded out to end the fifth, but those two runs were all the Bengals needed. Steelman gave up a double and an infield single and hit a batter over the final two innings, but the infield defense stiffened. When Lehman flied out to left field in the seventh, the Falcons season was in the books, and Blythewood stayed alive—for at least one more game.

“Hopefully as we move along, we’ll continue to be a little more relaxed in a playoff setting, and finding a way to win and see another day.”

That other day is Wednesday, when Blythewood faces J.L. Mann in a rematch.

Blythewood clung to a 1-0 lead over the Patriots Friday, but Mann’s 4-run fifth inning proved insurmountable to the Bengals.

Starting pitcher Davis Wright and reliever Cowan combined to 4-hit the Patriots, but the Bengals bats could not overcome the Patriots. Cowan, Justin Flemming, and Watson Saunders, who doubled, got the team’s only hits on the night.

J.L. Mann starter Wyatt Evans pitched six full innings of 2-hit ball, striking out eight and walking one. Owen Malloy pitched the seventh earned the save.

While the Bengals are still one game removed from elimination as of Tuesday, keeping the team loose and relaxed is key.

“It’s about playing,” Faulkner said. “They know what’s at stake, they know what our goals are. We’ve got the depth of our pitching staff to come back through it, we just gotta focus on doing all what we can do to win the game Wednesday.”


J.L. Mann  – 0-0-0-0-4-0-0 – 4, 4, 0

Blythewood – 0-0-1-0-0-0-0 – 1, 3, 3

WP: Wyatt Evans. LP: Zac Cowan.

Hitters: M – Ben Lumsden 2-3, 2B, 3B. B – Watson Saunders 2B.


Nation Ford – 1-1-0-1-0-0-0 – 3, 7, 1

Blythewood – 1-2-0-0-2-0-X – 5, 8, 2

WP: Kevin Steelman. LP: Taylor Sprinkle.

Hitters: NF – Seth Hanson 2-3, 2B, 3B.Rylee Ashworth 2-3, 2B. Gabe Simmons 2B. B –Zac Cowan 3-4. Ty Dooley 2-3.

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