Blythewood tops Dutch Fork in SC Diamond Invitational

BLYTHEWOOD – Dutch Fork starting pitcher Hunter Phipps confounded the Blythewood lineup for four innings Tuesday night, but the Bengals’ patience paid off.

Phipps gave up just two hits and struck out 11 in his time on the mound, but one of those hits was Zac Cowan’s three-run double in the bottom of the fifth that broke a 1-1 tie.

After the Silver Foxes got two runs in the sixth, Blythewood scored two more to set up Cowan’s scoreless seventh for a 6-3 victory in the Bengals’ first game of the South Carolina Diamond Invitational at the Blythewood baseball field.

“He was impressive. I thought we were taking some good swings, but we weren’t seeing those fastballs,” Blythewood head coach Banks Faulkner said. “He was coming right at us. He was impressive.”

Phipps gave Blythewood (17-1) fits in the first four innings. He struck out the side in the first and had two strikeouts apiece in the second-through fifth innings. He came off the mound after Cowan’s double.

Davis Wright pitched five and 2/3 innings and got the win for the Bengals. He scattered eight hits and gave up three runs, but struck out eight and walked none.

“It was good to have him back,” Faulkner said. “We didn’t pitch him last week, precautionary. He was tight, but it’s good to see him healthy.”

Dutch Fork (8-8) took a 1-0 lead in the third. After back-to-back two-out singles from Clark Hubbard and Hayden Friend, Hubbard scored on a passed ball as Wright pitched to Landon Kahl.

Wright kept his cool. He struck out Kahl to get out of the inning, then pitched a scoreless fourth and fifth inning to keep Blythewood in the game.

The fifth was the time for the Bengals to get some runs. Phipps had thrown some 70 pitches by the fifth, and while Phipps struck out two in the fourth inning, he gave up his first walk of the game.

“He’s a young guy, and we talk a lot about getting the pitch count up and getting them tired,” Faulkner said. “Zac came through with the big hit, and we did a good job in the bottom of the order in getting on base.”

Stephen Lang-Spittler opened the bottom of the fifth reaching base on an infield error. After Phipps struck out Kevin Steelman, he walked Alex Myers and Justin Flemming to load the bases.

Phipps then struck out Alex Nevils, but walked Caleb McCants to score Xavier Cuevas, the courtesy runner for Lang-Spittler.

With the bases loaded, Cowan came to the plate and worked up a full count. He launched a payoff pitch into leftfield to score Myers, Flemming, and McCants and give Blythewood a 4-1 lead.

George Schodowski came on the mound in relief of Phipps and retired Rollings to close out the fifth.

Dutch Fork got two runs on Ottone’s two-out single in the sixth to cut the lead to 4-3. That hit, and Paul Pridgen’s base hit that followed, brought Wright off the mound in favor of Alex Simmons. Simmons struck out Zach West to end the inning and cut the Silver Foxes’ rally short.

“I thought he (Wright) gave up some seeing-eye singles there in the sixth inning, but it was a great job by him and a great job by our bullpen,” Faulkner said.

Blythewood got those runs back in the bottom of the sixth. Flemming, who doubled with two outs and the bases empty in the third, cashed in when he laced a single to rightfield that scored Cuevas and Myers to make it 6-3 Bengals.

Cowan took the mound to start the seventh and closed out the win with two strikeouts and a ground out. 

Blythewood played Hillcrest Wednesday in the second round of the SCDI and plays T.C. Roberson High Thursday night at Blythewood field.

“We’re just focusing on tomorrow and then Thursday,” Faulkner said. “We try to approach every game as an opportunity to get ready for May 3 when the playoffs start. This was a playoff-type environment against a really good arm, and those are the kinds of guys we’re going to have to beat.”

The Bengals will have an off day in the 10-team tournament Friday, and will play Saturday against an opponent and at a time that depends on the seeding. Five games are scheduled for Saturday, with the championship game set for 6 p.m.

Thursday

Blythewood – 2-1-1-2-3-1 — 10, 8, 1

Spring Valley – 0-0-0-0-0-0 — 0, 2, 4

WP: Kevin Steelman. LP: Jones.

Hitters: B – John Rollings 4-4, 2B (2), 3 RBI. Caleb McCants HR, 3 RBI. Landon Penfield 2B. Kevin Steelman 2 RBI.

Tuesday

Dutch Fork  – 0-0-1-0-0-2-0 — 3, 8, 1

Blythewood  – 0-0-0-0-4-2-X —   6, 4 ,1

WP: Davis Wright. LP: Hunter Phipps

Hitters: D – Brennan Ottone 3-3, 2 RBI. B – Justin Flemming 2-2, 2B, 2 RBI. Zac Cowan 2B, 3 RBI.

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