Bengal softball reaches Dist. 2 championship game

BLYTHEWOOD – After falling 11-1 at Lexington in the District 2 Tournament Friday, the Blythewood softball team rebounded with a 9-4 win over Boiling Springs in an elimination game at Blythewood Monday night.

Lauren Hardy went 3-for-4 with a home run as well as pitched a complete game against the Bulldogs, scattering eight hits and striking out four.

Going into this season our goal has been to go one game farther, one game farther than last year,” head coach Jordan Atkinson said. Blythewood reached the district tournament round last year and won the first game, but lost the next two. “We won our first game and it was a step in the right direction, but then we lost the second game, and here we are winning this game, which we didn’t do last year. So we got that one game, and I told the girls that everything is even.”

Blythewood (16-7) had sent Boiling Springs (12-9) to the losers’ bracket May 3. With the Lexington loss in mind, the Bengals wanted to at least move into the championship game at Lexington Wednesday. The Wildcats (28-5) won the 5A state championship in 2019 and are the No.1 seed in the district tournament.

“Right now everybody’s even. We’re 0-0. You’re batting average is 0. What you did in March or April doesn’t matter,” Atkinson said. “It’s a new ballgame, and I’m pretty proud of our hitting and our defense.”

Coming out of the losers’ bracket, the Bengals will have to beat Lexington twice to advance. The District 2 winner moves to the 5A upper state tournament, which begins Friday.

“It’s the playoffs. Anything can happen,” Atkinson said. “They’re our Achilles heel. They’re that hump that we feel like we need to get over as a program to be on that level with them.”

Whether they win or lose at Lexington, Blythewood showed its advancement as a program by handling anything that Boiling Springs dished out over the course of two games.

Blythewood, which beat the Bulldogs 12-2 May 3, jumped to a 7-1 lead after scoring three runs in both the first and second innings and a run in the third. Boiling Springs clawed back into the game with a run in the fourth inning and two runs on Sayde Parris’ 2-out 2-run home run in the fifth, which cut Blythewood’s lead to 7-4.

Parris’ big hit was the last surge for the Bulldogs. Blythewood answered Boiling Springs with two runs of its own in the bottom of the fifth to go up 9-4.

Bulldogs starting pitcher Chloe Sloand walked Ashley Duncan and relief pitcher Olivia Smith walked Ashlee Hoile to start the inning.

As Kylie Sanders batted, Duncan stole third and then raced for home as Sanders hit into a 4-3 groundout to make it 8-4.

With Hoile in safely at second, Smith hit Hardy and put her at first. I’yanna Velez grounded into a fielder’s choice that got Hoile out at third.

With Hardy at second and Velez at first, Maya Van Zyl hit a 2-out ground single up the middle that scored Hardy for the final run of the game. Josie Smythe flied out to centerfield to end the inning.

Hardy and her fellow seniors, Velez, Hoile, and Sanders, likely played their last game at Blythewood field Monday. Atkinson said it will be sad to see Hardy, an Indiana commit, and her teammates depart, but they have made an impact on the program.

“It’s been great to have her as an ace for the last four years, and leading off at the top of the lineup,” Atkinson said about Hardy, an Indiana commit. “You’ve got speed, you’ve got power, great defense, great pitching. She’s a 5-tool player.”

Boiling Springs – 0-0-0-2-0-X-X – 2, 5, 2

Blythewood – 1-1-0-1-0-0-X – 12, 10, 2

W: Lauren Hardy

B: Lauren Hardy 2-3, HR, 3 RBI.  I’yanna Velez 2-2  Maya Van Zyl 2-2, 2B. Josie Smythe 2B, 3 RBI

Blythewood – 0-0-0-1-0-0-X – 1, 2, 5

Lexington – 4-2-0-0-3-2-X – 11, 13, 1

W: Karley Shelton

B: Josie Smythe 2-3.

Boiling Springs – 1-0-0-1-2-0-0 – 4, 8, 2

Blythewood – 3-3-1-0-2-0-X – 9, 10, 2

W: Lauren Hardy

B: Lauren Hardy 3-4, HR. Maya Van Zyl 2-4, 2 RBI. Josie Smythe 2-3. Neilah Browne 3 RBI.

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