May 23—LOUISA — Raceland did everything it could to dent the scoreboard at Randy Keeton Field on Saturday afternoon.
Bryce Blevins provided an overwhelming obstacle from the mound to derail the Rams’ scoring path.
The junior struck out eight of the first batters he faced. He totaled 13 in all, guiding the Bulldogs to a 3-0 win over Raceland in a matchup of the teams with the best records in the 15th and 16th Regions starting the day.
Blevins recorded a complete-game victory, allowing three hits and walking just one batter in the seventh inning.
He was aware of the quality opponent before him, but the Kentucky commit said he brings the same energy, intensity and focus every time he toes the rubber.
“I’ve come out every day since I was a little kid ready to compete at the highest level,” Blevins said. “Whenever it’s my time to pitch, I will be ready. It’s once a week and that’s the only time I get. I want to pitch against the best teams each week.”
Raceland scattered its trio of hits. It found a way to get a runner on base in every inning but the third. The Rams were awarded base twice after the batter was hit by a pitch. One hitter even made it to first base with a swinging strikeout, but the offense could not solve Blevins’s mixture of pitches.
“We’ve seen everybody’s No. 1 (pitcher),” Raceland coach Marty Mills said. “It’s a good thing to see. We want to be challenged by that and see where we can make some adjustments. We are pretty good at making game-to-game adjustments. … We had the opportunity to scratch a few runs, but we couldn’t pull it off. Blevins threw a really good ball game.”
Parker Fannin started the Raceland sixth inning with the aforementioned swinging strikeout. He made it to third base with a balk and a sacrifice bunt. With the Rams 90 feet away from scoring their first run, Blevins tallied another punchout to end the threat. The hurler closed out each frame with a strikeout.
“We are a younger team this year,” Blevins said. “I’ve taken on the leadership role. … Having that leader role this year, I knew with a runner on third that I had to do my job and get (the batter) out. I trust my teammates if the ball is put in play.”
Lawrence County coach Travis Feltner has seen his pitcher perform well all season. Blevins saw varsity time on the mound as a seventh-grader. The sole walk he gave up against the Rams was the only base on balls the junior has given up this season, according to Feltner.
“He has been lights out all year,” Feltner said. “Bryce has always been a strike-throwing machine. He has gotten older and has better stuff now. He throws three pitches for strikes. He is a fierce competitor. I am glad he wears red and black.”
Jake Heighton had not pitched in 12 days but was productive in his latest outing on the bump for Raceland (26-6). The senior gave up just four hits. He struck out five and didn’t issue a walk.
“Jake is always very solid,” Mills said. “He never gets rattled. I think he finished the game under 70 pitches. We know what we are going to get from him. We just want to get some guys some innings during the last week (of the regular season) and see where we are.”
Ethan Whitt started the scoring for Lawrence County (24-4) with a solo home run in the second inning. Will Lafferty reached on an error, and three batters later, he came home on Nick Collinsworth’s RBI single.
Blevins struck out the side in the third. Two Rams were caught stealing in the next two frames to keep the bases clear for the Dawgs hurler.
“My pitching coach is my uncle,” Blevins said. “When I was warming up, I told him I was really feeling it today. It was probably the best that I have felt all year. Everything was working as soon as I stepped on that mound today. I was ready to compete from the beginning.”
Blevins suppled himself some insurance in the home half of the sixth inning. Brayden Maynard opened with a single before Abner Collinsworth sent a grounder to the right side of the infield. An errant throw to second base allowed the Bulldogs to place two runners in scoring position with no one out.
Blevins sailed a long fly ball to right field that turned into a sacrifice fly and an RBI. Heighton pitched out of the jam to limit the damage.
“It was a win for them,” Feltner said. “At the end of the day, you get to looking down the barrel of second and third with no one out and you get off the field with only one run, that is a win.”
“Flip the script in the top of the sixth, Bryce came up with big strikeout,” he added. “A guy on third and if he scores, it’s 2-1 and anything could happen.”
The two teams have a combined record of 50-10 this season. Both coaches feel their teams are rounding into form after strong tests on the schedule.
“I know we have a good record,” Feltner said. “But I remind them every day that we won some games early on where we played bad. … The last three weeks we have started cleaning that up. We got some good quality pitching depth, and we are playing clean defensively. To win a region, you have to pitch and catch it.”
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Heighton and Thornsberry; Blevins and B. Fletcher. W—Blevins. L—Heighton. HR—Whitt (LC).