LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. — After missing out on the playoffs in 2016, Coach Jonathan Johnson and the 2017 Lexington County Blowfish set their sights on a playoff birth starting in May.
Over 40,000 Blowfish fans came to Lexington County Baseball stadium throughout the Season of the Total Eclipse to cheer on their hometown team. During the season, The Blowfish sported Total Eclipse Centerline Jerseys that commemorated the August 21st Solar Eclipse set to pass through the heart of Lexington County. After the season, the team auctioned off the jerseys to support science projects at Lexington County School District One Elementary Schools.
Coach Johnson tried to combat a higher ERA in 2016 with plenty of arms for the 2017 campaign. The march towards the season began with the Second Annual Blowfish Alumni game on May 29th at Lexington County Baseball Stadium.
Although rain played a factor in the game, Blowfish fans packed the Lex to see Blowfish of old take on this year’s team. The Coastal Plain League regular season started two night’s later on the road in Florence.
The beginning of the season started slow for Lexington County. The team lost their first eight ballgames and was 1-11 through their first 12 games.
Lexington County got their first win of the season on the road in Savannah at Grayson Stadium. Although the team committed seven errors in the game, the Blowfish got the lead in the fifth on a Chase Teter (Morehead State) SAC fly. Riley Hogan (South Carolina) extended the lead to 7-4 with a two run single and Hunter Dollander (USC-Aiken) shut the door and notched his first of seven saves on the season.
After a three game skid, the Blowfish welcomed on in the undefeated Florence RedWolves to Lexington County Baseball Stadium. The Wolves were 10-0 coming into the matchup and were trying to make history with the best start in CPL history.
The Blowfish played one of their best and most complete games of the season that night knocking off Florence 4-1 ending their undefeated season. Mickey Dugan (Gardner-Webb), who at one point had a 14 game hitting streak, launched a homerun in the game as the Blowfish stunned Florence.
After the big win against Florence, Lexington County for the first time put two straight wins together beating Forest City 7-2. This game was the second of a stretch of five ballgames against the Owls in which Blowfish pitching struck out 61 Forest City batters.
Connor Thomas (Georgia Tech) was knee deep in those ballgames striking out eight Owls in one start and seven in his next. Thomas led Blowfish pitching in strikeouts with 50 and once struck out 12 Gastonia Grizzlies in a 14-5 win at the Lex.
The Blowfish got hot heading into the end of the first half of the season, winning six of seven ballgames one of which was a walk-off comeback win against Savannah. After the Blowfish scored two in the eighth to tie the game, Nick Guimbarda (Presbyterian) smacked an RBI single down the left field line that won it for the Fish.
Before the second half started, the Blowfish had a score to settle with the USC Alumni. The team had been on a losing skid for the coveted GameFish Cup. Lexington County and the USC Alumni had been tied 5 games apiece but the Blowfish settled that score and knocked off the Alumni at the Lex. Current Gamecock TJ Shook (South Carolina) got the start for the Blowfish.
Lexington County started the second half cold but Guimbarda was red hot. The Presbyterian product slung together a 10 game hitting streak and a 6 game multi-hit streak. His numbers were good enough to get him voted into the CPL All-Star game in Holly Springs.
After the All-Star Break, Lexington County only had one losing streak of the season. The Blowfish went 12-8 through that stretch of 20 games and found themselves in the thick of a playoff chase late in the year.
Lexington County went on a stretch of winning 7 of 9 ballgames and got as close as 2.5 games back of first place in the second half standings with a week left in the season. The Blowfish strung together four straight wins to put them in prime positioning to make a playoff push.
The last week of the season was brutal for Lexington County. With rainouts compiling up the Blowfish had a stretch of 7 ballgames in just four days. Through that stretch of the season the tires began to spin and the Blowfish were eliminated from postseason contention on a rainy night at McNair Field in Forest City.
The last Saturday of the season was also impacted by rain but that didn’t stop the festivities at Lexington County Baseball Stadium. The Carolina Comfort Heating and Air Fan of the Year was announced for the season, fireworks were shot off, and the jersey auction finished out the night. In total, the Blowfish $3,000 with their one of a kind Centerline Jerseys.
Lexington County gave the Fish fans something to cheer about on the last night of the season with a 7-3 win over their in-state rival Florence and finished the season 23-30, 14-12.
Zach Spivey (Bethune-Cookman) led the team in average at a .340 mark and was one of the more spectacular Blowfish defensively.
Lexington County got some much-needed power out of Dom Cuoci (St. Joseph’s), Drew Ellis (Mt. Olive University), and Riley Hogan. Cuoci slammed team highs in home runs (7) and RBIs (24). Ellis and Hogan knocked six each home runs and 23 RBIs each.
2017 brought some familiar faces back to Lexington County Baseball Stadium. Jared Williams (USC-Lancaster) came on strong at the back end of the year and finished .325/0/12. Dalton Duty (Valdosta State) joined the team with a month left and played his first baseball in over a year after an injury. Fittingly enough, Duty plated the final two runs of the season for the Blowfish in their 7-3 season finale win over Florence.
Clay Hunt (College of Charleston), Jimmy Townsend-Chase (Western Michigan), and TJ Shook were the big guns in the pen. Hunt (1.42) and Shook (1.89) both pitched to an under 2.00 ERA.
Ryan Stoudemire (Charleston Southern) and Tate Gillespie (TAMU-CC) led Blowfish starters in wins with three and Christian Aragon (USC-Aiken) joined the two starters with three wins as well.
Overall, the slow start for the Blowfish was combatted with a strong finish to 2017. Lexington County is poised for a playoff push in 2018, which would be their first since 2015.
From all of us here at Blowfish Baseball, we thank our fans, players, host families, and staff for a great 2017 and look forward to seeing you for our free viewing of the eclipse at Lexington County Baseball Stadium on August 21st.