Bengals top JL Mann in playoff opener

BLYTHEWOOD – The Blythewood Baseball team’s offense is still a work in progress, but the Bengals showed some growth in a 6-2 victory over J.L. Mann in the first game of the 5A District 4 Tournament.

Down 2-1 Blythewood got a 2-run RBI single from Macon Leppert take a 3-2 lead. The Bengals got two more runs in the fifth inning and a run in the sixth to seal the win.

“Being able to have a couple of innings where we produced a lot of situational hitting was great,” head coach Dolan Crolley said. “We talked a lot about being able to do that stuff in the playoffs. It’ll help you win a lot more baseball games.”

Blythewood (19-6) plays host to Hillcrest today. The Rams (16-10) beat Spartanburg 7-6 Tuesday. The Vikings (11-13-1) play host to the Patriots today.

J.L. Mann (7-18) took a 1-0 lead on G King’s 2-out single in the second inning.

Blythewood evened the score when Carson Weathers singled and later scored on Luke Duncan’s groundout in the bottom of the second, but the Patriots took a 2-1 lead on Dawson Siffri’s solo home run to left field in the third inning.

Starting pitcher Bryce Harder walked Landon Penfield to open the bottom of the third, and courtesy runner Ryan Watts moved to second on Alex Myers’ sacrifice bunt. Harder walked John Rollings to put runners at first and second.

Camden Watts grounded out to first baseman Tripp O’Neal, but Ryan Watts moved to third and Rollings moved to second on the play.

That at-bat set up Leppert’s plate appearance. Leppert worked the count to 3-1, fouled off several pitches, and hit a grounder to second baseman Jake Roy. Roy couldn’t make a play and both Ryan Watts and Rollings scored—and Blythewood held a 3-2 lead.

Carson Weathers followed up with a single, but Harrison Collins struck out swinging to retire the side. Getting those two runs in was pivotal, Leppert said.

“We’re definitely not swinging as well as we were, but now I feel like we’re coming together as a team and hitting better situation wise, scoring runs and stuff like that,” Leppert said. “I feel like we’ll be all right. We’ve got to keep it going and keep the momentum up.”

Blythewood got another opportunity in the bottom of the fifth. With Harder still on the mound for J.L. Mann, Rollings and Camden Watts singled, and Leppert bunted but reached base safely on Harder’s throwing error.

Harder made way for Eric Meilinger on the mound at that point, but Weathers drove in Rollings on a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

Harrison Collins grounded out on the next play, but Camden Watts scored to make it 5-2 Blythewood.

Eli Marsha struck out looking, but the Bengals got a run in the sixth when Ryan Watts scored on a wild pitch.

Landon Penfield pitched six full innings for the win, giving up three runs and striking out six while walking two. Ben Blackwell closed out the seventh with two strikeouts.

With good pitching and situational hitting on display, Crolley said the Bengals have a much better chance at going further into the playoffs.

“We’ve talked about it all year. It’s just being set and ready to go and getting hot in May,” Crolley said. “We’re fine-tuning some things here and there and making sure that things are as crisp as they can be, and that’s how tonight looked.”

J.L. MANN – 0-1-1-0-0-0-0 – 2, 3, 2

BLYTHEWOOD – 0-1-2-0-2-1-X – 6, 6, 0

WP: Landon Penfield.

M: Dawson Siffri HR. B: Carson Weathers 2-2. Macon Leppert 2 RBI.

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