For the first time since 2012 and the first time since the team moved to Lexington County, the Blowfish are going to play for a Petitt Cup Championship.
For the first time since 2012 and the first time since the team moved to Lexington County, the Blowfish are going to play for a Petitt Cup Championship after winning games two and three against the Forest City Owls 11-0 and 8-1.
After storms suspended game two of the best of five series between the Lexington County Blowfish and the Forest City Owls, action resumed at 4:05 p.m. on Aug. 8. It took one pitch for the Blowfish to break the scoreless tie.
Zach Cowart sent the first pitch of the day out to the trees in right field for a two-run home run and set the tone for the hard hit fest that ensued.
After Carson Starnes, who also pitched the only inning played on Aug. 7, struck out two in the second inning, the Blowfish tacked on two more runs. Those came by way of a Dariyan Pendergrass RBI groundout and a deep sacrifice fly to score both Ryan Ouzts and Warren Holzemer and give the Blowfish a 4-0 lead after two innings.
The game really blew open in inning number three. The Owls were kept off the scoreboard once again by Starnes (who struck out two in that inning to give him six in the first three frames) and the Blowfish took full advantage in the bottom half.
Cooper Blauser led off the inning with a ground rule double down the first base line and was brought home a few pitches later when Phillip Ard hit his second home run of the series to left field. Ouzts got the Blowfish back on base with a walk and then moved to third after Holzemer crushed a deep fly out to left for a double. The Pendergrass baserunning clinic helped score more runs after his base hit single scored Ouzts and stretched it into a double after the throw from the left fielder went home. A wild pitch scored Holzemer but after noticing the careless jog to the ball from Owls catcher Andrew Lanphere, Pendergrass rounded third and scored to give the Blowfish a commanding 9-0 lead after three innings.
The Blowfish kept pouring on in the bottom of the sixth inning. Cowart, Blauser and Ard all got on base to start the inning. Travis Elliott came in to pinch run for Cowart and scored after an Ouzts ground out. Holzemer walked to load the bases and then Pendergrass drew a walk to score Blauser and boost the lead to 11-0 after six innings.
Starnes cruised through six innings of no hit baseball and dominated the Owls with no real threat of giving up any runs.
“Carson texted me last night and wanted the ball,” Blowfish head coach KC Brown said. “The message was ‘don’t panic’. Obviously, if you can get game one today, that momentum can bleed over into the nightcap.”
The Blowfish were in cruise control the rest of the game and forced a deciding game three with an 11-0 win.
The Blowfish bats beat up on the Owls in game three and wouldn’t allow them to make it competitive. The Owls didn’t help themselves much either.
Pemdergrass got on base after a throwing error from Kael Snethen at second base. It was one of three Owls errors in the first inning alone. Jackson made them pay with a double and put both speedy runners on second and third base with no outs. Vining hit a sacrifice fly the next at-bat to score Pendergrass and Jackson was able to score after Cowart smacked an RBI single up the middle to give the Blowfish a 2-0 lead after one.
Robbie Jordan got the start on the mound for the Blowfish in game three and picked up where the Blowfish pitching staff left off in game two. He breezed through the first five innings and got plenty of run support while surrendering zero runs and giving up only three hits.
Vining crushed a solo home run to right and two batters later, Ard hit his third home run of the series and sent it all the way to the batting cages way beyond the left field wall (440 feet) to give the Blowfish a commanding 5-0 lead.
One inning later, Vining crossed home plate again after reaching on a fielder's choice and advancing to second on a wild pitch. Cowart’s RBI single scored Vining and Blauser’s double down the right field line scored Cowart. An errant throw allowed Blauser to move to third base. A wild pitch the next at-bat scored Blauser and gave the Blowfish an 8-0 lead after four innings.
The Owls finally got on the board when Landry Mead entered the game to pitch and a Will Butcher sacrifice fly scored Snethen after the Owls loaded the bases with no outs. A strikeout and a groundout to Ard at first got the Blowfish out of the first real jam they saw all day.
Mead retired the side in the top of the seventh and final inning to seal the deal and punch the Blowfish’s ticket to the Petitt Cup Championship Series for the first time since the team moved to Lexington.
“This is very rewarding for Lexington County to win a division championship. This is Lexington County’s home team,” Blowfish co-owner Bill Shanahan said. “And to see this team come together all season long under a very young head coach, his first ever head coaching experience and just turned 25 years old, what a job he’s done.”
At one point in the sixth inning of game three, Ard had more home runs than the Owls had total runs. Brown called him the hottest hitter on the planet. For Ard, it was a culmination of the work he’s been able to put in all season.
“Man, it’s hard to point fingers at just one thing you know. I’m just trying to show up on the field every day and compete with my team and put us in the best situation to win ball games,” Ard said. “Doing the little things right really goes a long way.”
Another Blowfish player whose improved hitting helped put them over the top was Vining. For Vining, his commitment to St. Peter’s and leaving the transfer portal relieved a lot of pressure and allowed him to play more freely than he’s had all season and also prepared him for the higher stakes baseball he would play later in the season.
“It’s definitely a real thing, when you’re in the portal you got schools coming out every game to watch you, there is a lot more pressure,” Vining said. “But you know, pressure either bust pipes or fills them and I’m a guy that loves the pressure so it doesn’t bother me too much.”
Vining also described his excitement for playoff baseball as a way to get his hitting into another gear.
“It’s the playoffs, man. I’ve always put up decent numbers in the playoffs and I just love playoff time. I’m definitely seeing it a lot better,” Vining said.
The Blowfish are set to face the Wilmington Sharks in the Petitt Cup Championship Series. Brown said that the team’s recent bond is something unique to anything he’s seen in collegiate summer ball and that the belief is there that they can win the whole thing.
“Chemistry is a hard thing to define but this is really rare in summer ball, honestly,” Brown said.Guys normally rally around each other and get to know each other well but I’ve never seen a group in summer ball rally around one another so quickly and deeply.”
The message around the team however, is still very clear. Jackson made sure when pictures of the team were being taken that the job isn’t done yet, reminding his teammates, “we haven’t won anything yet!”
Wilmington will host game one Thursday Aug. 10 and games two and three (if necessary) will be played Friday Aug. 11 and Saturday Aug. 12.
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