Blythewood ends season as 5A State Runner Up

BHS principal Matt Sherman and head coach Dolan Crolley

BLYTHEWOOD – Game two of the 5A state championship baseball series featured an explosion of offense in the first two innings Wednesday night.

By game’s end, River Bluff’s base running, combined with Andrew Vaughan’s relief pitching won the day and the series for the Gators.

Two runs on a passed ball and a Blythewood error in the 7th inning gave River Bluff a 9-7 lead, and Vaughan set the Bengals down in order in the bottom of that frame to close out a 2-game series sweep and clinch the team’s first 5A title in three tries in the final series.

Blythewood, which finishes the season 24-8, gave the Gators everything it had, head coach Dolan Crolley said.

Starting pitcher Landon Penfield (14)

 “We knew that we were going to be in a dog fight, this game was going to be a lot different from Monday’s game,” Crolley said, noting River Bluff’s 2-0 win to start the series. “Monday’s game was a pitchers duel, a defensive battle. I knew coming out here tonight that both teams’ bats were going to come alive and it just came down to which team made the least mistakes.”

River Bluff (28-7) turned out to have made the least mistakes. Four Blythewood errors led to at least two runs—one of them the go-ahead run in the 7th inning.

River bluff took advantage of that and got another clean inning from Vaughan to close out the win.

“You never know how the game is gonna go. You think you have an idea but then things happen,” River Bluff head coach Mark Bonnette said about the twists and turns of the game. “Andrew has just done what he’s done all year for us which is to come in and finish it out.”

Vaughn came on in relief of starting pitcher Thomas Powell after the Bengals had scored seven runs in the first two innings. Vaughan put the ice on the Blythewood bats, holding them hitless the rest of the way.

Camden Watts (3)

Blythewood starter Landon Penfield had given up six runs in his first two innings, but he managed to settle in on the mound. He stayed through the 5th inning when the Gators picked up a run to tie the game at 7.

That run set up the Gators’ winning scenario in the seventh inning.

Camden Watts, who had come in on relief of Penfield to start the sixth, hit Weston Grant to start the seventh. While Watts pitched to Wyatt McPherson, Grant stole second and then took third on Watts’s throwing error to second base. Watts walked McPherson, and Grant scored on a passed ball while Watts pitched to Myles Proffitt.

Leading 8-7, River Bluff managed another run after Proffitt grounded out. Busbee reached on an error that scored McPherson.

Blythewood managed to get the final two outs of the inning, But Vaughn put the Bengals down in order in the bottom of the seventh to close out the win.

“They just believe in one another they work so hard together,” Bonnette said. “They’ve been wanting this since last year’s heartbreaking loss in the district championship. We’ve had our run of injuries and adversity, but for them to stick together and make this run for our community, for our school but also for themselves, it makes me so happy for our program.”

The Gators opened the game scoring two runs and their half of the first. Carson Weathers lifted Blythewood to a 4-2 lead with the Grand Slam home run in the bottom of the first.

Carson Weathers (10) hit a grand slam in the bottom of the first inning.

River Bluff made it 6-4 with four runs in the second.

Walker Mitchell’s 2-out single scored Busbee for their first run of the inning, and Beau Hollins’ 3-run homer over the rightfield fence came soon after.

Blythewood responded with three runs in the bottom of the second to take a 7-6 lead, which it held until the top of the fifth. The Gators picked up a run in that inning which set up their seventh-inning heroics.

The Bengals, who reached the 5A final series in 2019, find themselves in a familiar position, which is to learn lessons and work on going one game better next year.

“We tasted it this year,” Dolan Crolley said. “We fell short last year with a talented group (that dropped out of the 5A upper state championship tournament) and we tasted it in the state championship this year. We fell short again, so for us it’s just getting back and figuring out what we could do to be one step closer and be the guys celebrating right now.”

Blythewood graduates seven seniors this year, Ben Blackwell, Carson Weathers, Camden Watts, John Rollings, Luke Duncan, Xavier Cuevas, and Livingston Weisinger.

Crolley credits them for providing a leadership bridge from last year’s talent-laden team and putting the underclassmen on a good footing for the next season.

“We had 10 seniors graduate last year. This year’s seniors knew what it would take to get here and have the confidence to accept what it would take and to challenge everybody,” Crolley said. “That’s exactly what they did.”

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