Lexington County Blowfish win the 2023 Petitt Cup Championship

Posted 8/13/23

For the Shanahan’s, it’s their second Coastal Plain League title with the Blowfish. But this is the first for Lexington County.

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Lexington County Blowfish win the 2023 Petitt Cup Championship


“You all are the greatest team I ever had,” Blowfish co-owner Bill Shanahan said to the 2023 Lexington County Blowfish as they received the Petitt Cup for winning the Coastal Plain League Championship.

For the Shanahan’s, it’s their second Coastal Plain League title with the Blowfish. But this is the first for Lexington County.

“This is the 18th year of the Blowfish. Nine years in Columbia and nine years in Lexington County,” Shanahan said. “In 2012, we won the CPL championship and now Lexington County gets the prize. It was accomplished by one of the greatest teams, not in talent, I’ve been at the AA, A, AAA level, but in regards to a oneness of unity and working together all the time and never giving up. And the enthusiasm, enthusiasm breeds more enthusiasm and this team energized the team, the fans, the whole organization and Lexington County.”

Carson Starnes took the mound for the Blowfish after successfully shutting down the Forest City Owls in game two of the last series. Brycen Jewell got the nod for the Sharks in the pivotal game three.

Starnes took care of business in the first inning with only one runner reaching base via error. The Blowfish on the other hand, were a little more active with their first inning bats.

Dariyan Pemdergrass led things off with a bloop single up the middle. Two batters later, Pendergrass scored after Ashby Vining’s two-run home got the Blowfish on the board first. 

“It was key, because the first thing we wanted to do was jump on these guys,” Vining said. “I got to give props to the other team, they battled back but you know, I’m just looking hard and away and I got a curveball so I was expecting curveball and got a fastball and did a really good job of keeping my hands in and saw the ball and swinging it well and just happen to run into one.”

Zach Cowart and Cooper Blauser drew walks to set things up for Warren Holzemer, whose double scored Cowart to give the home team a favorable 3-0 lead after the first inning. 

Lexington County tacked on another run in the second inning. Jackson got on base via walk and eventually moved over to third after Vining’s strikeout wasn’t caught by the Sharks catcher. Vining made it to first and runners were on the corners with one out. Cowart’s bloop single scored Jackson and the Blowfish took a 4-0 lead into the third inning. 

The bats finally woke up for the Sharks in the third. A lead off double from Stephen DiTomaso, a hit by pitch and an infield single from A.J. Mendolia loaded the bases up with no outs. A base-hit single from Connor Powell scored DiTomaso and Jason Culley and put a dent into the Blowfish lead at 4-2. Lexington County and Starnes got out of the jam after another double play from Holzemer to Cowart to Ard and then got the final out of the inning by fly out to minimize the damage.

The Blowfish got a run back from the Sharks in the fourth after Pendergrass got plunked by a pitch, stole second and eventually was driven home by a Jackson single. A fielder's choice and Vining getting picked off on the base paths ultimately ended the inning.

During the warm up period before the fifth inning, a series of lightning strikes occurred near the stadium which led to a weather delay with the Blowfish leading 5-2. 

Play was delayed for 90 minutes and resumed shortly after 10:00 p.m.

Robbie Jordan took the mound for the Blowfish after the delay, ending the night for Starnes. 

It was smooth sailing for Jordan and the Blowfish until they hit adversity again in the top of the seventh. An infield single and a walk brought the tying run to the plate. Mendolia singled during the next at-bat and scored DiTomaso. A walk and a sacrifice fly later scored Jason Culley and an Ethan Wilder single drove home the game tying run. In one inning, the Blowfish went from being nine outs away from a title, to a tie game.

Cowart led off the bottom of the seventh with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch. With the runner on third and no outs, the Blowfish seemed primed to take the lead right back. However, that momentum evaporated after Blauser and Ard both popped up and Holzemer flew out to end the inning with a zero in the seventh inning run column. 

In the eighth inning, the Blowfish were presented with a similar scenario. This time, they took care of business. Ryan Ouzts got plunked in the head with a pitch, Zander Buchan drew a walk, and Pendergrass laid down a perfectly executed bunt down the third base line for an infield single to load the bases with no outs.

Jackson struck out the next at-bat but Vining stepped up and slapped a double into the outfield to score Ouzts and Buchan. Vining eventually got into a pickle during a miscommunication and resulted in Pendergrass being thrown out at home. Nonetheless, the leading runs were driven home and the Blowfish had a 7-5 lead going into the final inning.

“It’s what I train for, I’m not gonna lie,” Vining said. “It’s one of those feelings that you got to go out and compete and it’s a moment you want to be in. I was really hoping Ty could come through. He didn’t, but I had his back and you know, I want to be in that moment 10 out of 10 times.”

In the ninth, C.J. Czerwinski came in to try to seal the deal and win the Blowfish a championship. He gave up a single on the first at-bat but forced a flyout, recorded a strikeout and a flyout to Ouzts in right field provided the final out and gave Lexington County its first championship.

“I told KC yesterday after throwing two innings that I’d be absolutely ready today,” Czerwinski said. “He told me to go down there in the seventh and I told him I’d be ready. So he trusted me in the ninth, so I’m forever grateful for that.”

Back in May during head coach KC Brown’s appearance at a Blowfish luncheon, he jokingly said he would bring a championship to Lexington County. In his first year as the Blowfish head coach, he did.

“It’s certainly surreal,” Brown said. “I certainly said that tongue-in-cheek but obviously we had aspirations of winning it but also you know, you have to be realistic and be humble and go about your work every single day. But the goal was to have a lot of fun and then hope that that fun translates into wins. So we didn’t do it with the end game in mind, but we tried to go about our business every single day and I think that led to the success on the field and in the win column.”

Brown will have a lot more teams in the future. He’s a 25-year-old head coach and this team was his first as the head man in charge. He has a world of baseball coaching ahead of him. He’s seen, played and been a part of a lot of baseball teams as well, but this specific group will be one that he won’t soon forget.

“School ball included, which is saying a lot because you spend a lot of time together and in school ball and in the spring and everything, this is the tightest team I’ve ever been a part of,” Brown said. “From Little League on up, player or coach. Just hats off to them for developing that chemistry in such a short amount of time. It’s gonna be hard to top this team chemistry and to top this group of individuals that came together. They’re one of one right now.”

This Petitt Cup Championship was the third straight for Jackson, who won the last two with the Savannah Bananas. This one, as some would say, hit differently.

“I felt like this team, we couldn’t live off the crowd like at the other location (Savannah), but we actually had to come together and play baseball together and fight diversity, fight for that first place spot,” Jackson said. “We gelled together as a team, we were brothers. We would fight in the locker room, we would fight on the bus ride but at the end of the day, we loved one another on the field and off the field. I feel like we really truly loved each other.”

This group also had plenty of Lexington County natives. One of which was arguably the most valuable player of the game in Vining. Growing up in Lexington County, the Blowfish were a part of Vining’s childhood. He has now helped make them champions.

“It’s amazing,” Vining said. “I grew up a Blowfish fan, going to games and just to be able to give back to this community that’s given so much to me…it means a lot to me. I met people this summer that come out every night to support you and it just means a lot and you meet a lot of lifetime friends and people who will always be there and that you can always go to.”

Lexington County Blowfish, Petitt Cup Championship, Coastal Plain League, Bill Shanahan, KC Brown, Dariyan Pendergrass, Ty Jackson, Ryan Ouzts, Ashby Vining, Zander Buchan, CJ Czerwinski, Carson Starnes, Robbie Jordan, Wilmington Sharks, Cooper Blauser, Warren Holzemer, Zach Cowart


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