Bengals rally past, then rout Vikings

BLYTHEWOOD – The Blythewood baseball team got a little lost in a grim attitude Monday night against Region 5-4A rival Spring Valley.

The Vikings scored a run in the first and two runs in the third to take a 3-0 lead. Some Blythewood teammates appeared glum at that early point in the ballgame, and head coach Banks Faulkner didn’t like it.

After the top-ranked 5A baseball team in the state woke up and took care of business in a 14-4 victory in six innings, Faulkner let his team know how he felt. He sat them down outside the first-base line and lit into them.

Not about balls and strikes, baserunning or hitting strategies, but about the simple task of keeping their heads up when some of the starters weren’t delivering early on.

“We’ve got some guys who get to feeling sorry for themselves when things don’t go their way,” Faulkner said. “We talked about how we’re a team, and when things don’t go your way, you’ve got to cheer your teammates on.”

“We have some guys that normally don’t struggle, that struggled, and they’ve just got to do a better job of handling that,” Faulkner added.

Starting pitcher Ben Blackwell got right into trouble in the top of the first when he walked Brent Gibbs. John Gabriel Lashley bunted Gibbs over to second, and Gibbs scored on Wyatt Tucker’s single.

Blackwell then gave up hits to Wynn Ravan and Ethan Rumpel before striking out Walker Thompson and Bobby Swick to retire the side.

Blythewood batters went down in order in the bottom of that frame. The Vikings picked up where they left off in the top of the second.

Blackwell struck out leadoff batter Colton Jones, but Preston Jackson hit a double to leftfield. Gibbs’ grounder was enough to sacrifice Jackson to third, and Jackson came home on Lashley’s single to centerfield.

Lashley scored Spring Valley’s third run on Tucker’s 2-out double to left.

That spelled the end of the night for Blackwell. Jacob Hardy came on in relief, but he had hardly warmed up when Blythewood picked Winn off the basepaths to end the inning.

From there the Bengals’ fortunes turned around.

After John Rollings opened the second inning with a single to left, Rumpel, the Spring Valley starter, walked Landon Penfield. Stephen Lang-Spittler bunted to put Rollings at third and Penfield at second. That set up Kevin Steelman’s towering one-out double to straightaway centerfield that easily scored Rollings and Penfield.

Rumpel regained his composure to get Alex Myers to ground out and he struck out Justin Flemming to cut off the rally. Hardy pitched a scoreless third, and that sent Blythewood batters back to work at the plate.

Caleb McCants tied the game on a one-out solo home run over the centerfield fence. After Zac Cowan flied out to leftfield, Rollings drew a walk and Penfield singled to set the table for Lang-Spittler.

Lang-Spittler took Rumpel’s second pitch to him and powered it well over the left centerfield fence for a 3-run shot that gave Blythewood a 6-3 lead.

Rumpel got Steelman to strike out to end the inning, and Spring Valley got a run back in the top of the fourth when Jones scored from third on a wild pitch.

That little run hardly mattered by the bottom of that frame. The Blythewood fourth was another four-run inning that saw Flemming, Alex Nevils, and Cowan all double, while Rumpel and his reliever Jacob Graham walked three Bengals.

“We’re really dialed in offensively, as good as any team I’ve had,” Faulkner said. “We’re good one through nine. We make it tough on pitchers. We hit for power throughout the lineup. It’s difficult. If one guy doesn’t get you, another guy will.”

Blythewood led 10-4, and while Hardy got into a little trouble in walking three batters back in the fourth, Alex Simmons game on in that inning and pitched a clean fifth as well. Rollins pitched another scoreless inning in the sixth.

The Bengals got a run in the fifth and three runs in the sixth when play was stopped because of the 10-run mercy rule.

“We feel really good about the way we’re swinging the bat, but we played great defense tonight,” Faulkner said, noting the team turning a 3-4-1 double play to get Alex Sanders out of a 2-on, one-out jam in the top of the fourth.

He credited first baseman Landon Penfield with barehanding a ground ball and flipping it to Alex Myers at second. Myers fired it to Simmons, who darted from the mound to first base to get the final out of the inning.

“Landon’s a really good first baseman, and Alex (Simmons) did a good job covering,” Faulkner said. “I thought Cowan (at shortstop) played really well defensively. That’s what I’ve told our pitchers, we’re playing at a really high level defensively. We’ve just got to be more aggressive (on the mound) and attack the strike zone.” 

The win marks the third straight 14-run victory from the Bengals. Blythewood smoked Rock Hill 14-4 Wednesday, then hit the road to Rock Hill to win 14-2 over the Bearcats Friday night.

The Bengals played at Spring Valley Wednesday and plays Dutch Fork at home Tuesday to open the 2022 South Carolina Diamond Invitational.

The 10-team annual tournament opens Tuesday with Brookland-Cayce taking on Lexington at 5, before the Bengals-Silver Foxes, a rematch of the 2019 5A state championship series.

The SCDI involves pool play from April 12 to April 15 and bracket play Saturday, April 16 beginning at 10 a.m.

Monday

Spring Valley – 1-2-0-1-0-0 — 4, 8, 1

Blythewood – 0-2-4-4-1-3 — 14, 11, 0

WP: Jacob Hardy. LP: Connor Beck

Hitters: S – Tucker 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI. Rumpel 2-3, 2B. Jackson 2B. B – Alex Nevils 2-4. Caleb McCants 2-5, HR, 3 RBI. Stephen Lang-Spittler HR, 2 RBI. Zac Cowan 2B, 2 RBI. Justin Flemming 2B. Kevin Steelman 2B.

Friday

Blythewood – 1-4-0-0-9-X-X — 14, 9, 0

Rock Hill  – 2-0-0-0-0-X-X — 2, 3, 1

WP: Landon Penfield. LP: Max Gladstone.

Hitters: B – Caleb McCants 2-3, HR, 4 RBI. Stephen Lang-Spittler 2-4, HR, 3 RBI. Zac Cowan 2B. John Rollings 2 RBI. R – Wyatt Faulkner 2B. Cole Canty 2B, 2 RBI.

Wednesday

Rock Hill  – 1-0-0-0-3-0-X — 4, 6, 1

Blythewood – 0-3-1-9-0-1-X —    14, 9, 1

WP: Kevin Steelman. LP: Cole Canty.

Hitters: R – John Wimmer 2-3. Cole Canty 2-3. B – Alex Nevils 2-3, HR, 2 RBI. John Rollings 2-4, 2B (2), 2 RBI. Zac Cowan HR. Caleb McCants 2B. Landon Penfiled 2B.

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