It’s amazing how a solo home run can lift a team. A leadoff blast from College of Charleston commit Landon Lucas to left center gave the Blythewood Bengals all they needed to a 3-0 lead and final over the Patriots of JL Mann. Bengals head baseball coach Banks Faulkner gave the impression of satisfaction after this win. “Yeah, just unbelievable. They have great poise and composure. They are mature beyond their years and we all have so much confidence in what they can do. Very proud of them tonight,” he said.
The Bengals have made it to the State Championship for the first time since 2013, and they did it with two freshman pitchers. Even with stable senior leadership, it was actually two freshmen who pitched the Bengals to victory: Davis Wright and Kevin Steelman. The two ninth graders combined for the shutout giving up just four hits.
Coach Faulkner had a tough decision on the pitching end. Even being in the cat bird’s seat, knowing they have to be beaten twice, he was very cautious on who was going to the mound. “So the rule makes it difficult.” Faulkner said.” If we bring in Josh (Cowan) and then we use him and things don’t go our way, he can’t catch the next game. This was hard to work around tonight. We were prepared to go with Landon (Lucas) tonight but not an ideal situation. I felt like Kevin was in control of the game and we continued to have confidence in him. We were going to give him a baserunner and let him go. They got bright days ahead, so impressive by both those two.”
Michael Gregory had a stellar day at the plate. He had two of the Bengals four total hits driving in Colton Harman on an RBI triple and then later a leadoff double in the fifth. On defense, Zach Bailes made some good plays at short. Even after his one misstep dropping a ball on a routine put out, he made up for it on the very next play turning on a double play ball along with Gregory and Citadel commit John Lanier.
This was all put into fruition three years ago for Coach Faulkner when he took the job. He was one of the best young coaches in the state after having led Summerville to state title, then took the Blythewood job later that summer. “It’s been three long years.” Faulkner said. ” When I got here in June of 2016 this club looked a whole lot different. We have had some guys committed and it’s been a process to get to this point. Its been so gratifying to see them accomplish this after their hard work and dedication.”
The Bengals get the winner of Dutch Fork and River Bluff in a best of three state championship beginning Saturday in Blythewood.
One more series left, and it’s all about winning the last game of the season for the Bengals.
“This is just another step in the journey” Faulkner said, smiling.” One of our goals was to win the final game of the season. The last one we played. And to do that we had to win a state championship. It’s interesting that whoever we see in the state championship, we are somewhat familiar with them either playing them this season or having been in the region in years past. We have a ton of respect for both those clubs.”