2023 Wilmington vs Lexington County

Blowfish Win Coastal Plain Petitt Cup In Lexington County For First Time

Blowfish Win Coastal Plain Petitt Cup In Lexington County For First Time

Eleven years after first capturing a Coastal Plain League title, the Lexington County Blowfish — with a new place to call home this time — did it again.

Aug 15, 2023 by Briar Napier

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Sign Up

Already a subscriber? Log In

Eleven years after first capturing a Coastal Plain League title, the Lexington County Blowfish — with a new place to call home this time — finally did it again.

And what a path the Blowfish took to get there.

From hiring a head coach in his mid-20s, being outside the playoff places following the first half of the season and facing playoff elimination in four of their six postseason games, the Blowfish played unconventionally the whole summer and found that it ended up working wonders.

But behind it all, Lexington County played winning, elite baseball the entire season, with remarkable talent frequently helping it clear the hurdles it needed to reach the CPL’s pinnacle. 

It wasn’t the most dominant of summers, but it was important enough — and in baseball, that’s sometimes all you need.

Here’s a look at the Coastal Plain League’s recently completed Championship Series, which saw the Lexington County Blowfish win the Petitt Cup (the league’s winner’s trophy) for the second time in club history:

The Wait is Over

The Blowfish won the Petitt Cup once before, in 2012, when they were then located in Columbia, South Carolina, but since moving to Lexington County in 2014, the team had not won another CPL title, let alone even made it to the Championship Series. Until now. 

The West Division champions were the comeback kids of this year’s playoffs — in both the divisional championship series and the one to decide the 2023 holders of the Petitt Cup.

Lexington County lost its first game in the best-of-three series, before storming back to win two and take the series. 

Playing against the Wilmington Sharks in the Championship Series, that all-too-familiar first-game hole arrived again when the East Division champs won Game 1 by a 7-5 margin, but the Blowfish were undeterred, taking Game 2 on home soil 7-4 to level the series and set up a winner-take-all Game 3 on Saturday. 

It looked as if Lexington County was going to roll away with the Petitt Cup as it got out to a 4-0 lead, and it remained in business when a lightning delay struck prior to the fifth inning with the Blowfish up 5-2. That delayed the game over an hour, only adding to the tension, as both teams regrouped and waited out the storm. 

When play did resume, Wilmington managed a last gasp that forced the Blowfish to respond, scoring three runs in the top of the seventh inning to tie the game at 5-5 and threatening to grab a late lead with the Petitt Cup hanging in the balance. 

But Lexington County’s two-run bottom of the eighth got the hosts back in front, and with closer CJ Czerwinski sent out to get one of the most important saves of his life, he delivered. After just four batters faced, he forced a flyout to end it and send him and his teammates into hysterics. 

Vining, Ard Answer the Call

Two players made Lexington County's epic playoff run possible, and for different reasons. 

Former Georgia Southern/now-North Georgia first baseman Phillip Ard was the star of the show for the postseason as a whole, thanks to his recurring ability to go yard on a moment’s notice. 

He led the Blowfish in batting average, home runs and RBIs across the playoffs, but the middle category in that list made him especially lethal with the bat in his hands. 

He had four home runs in six games, including one each of the three games in the West Divisional Championship Series against the Forest City Owls, which saw Ard (who had, by comparison, seven homers in 30 games across the regular season) turn into a machine and a vital part of Lexington County advancing to the Championship Series, where he also hit a homer in Game 2. 

However, Ard couldn’t replicate the magic in Game 3 (going 1-for-4 with two strikeouts), so that’s when a Lexington County native stepped up and ensured that his hometown ballclub was going to walk away Saturday with the Petitt Cup in its hands. 

Ashby Vining — hailing from Lexington, South Carolina — had a massive four-RBI night in the series finale, but his most important RBIs were his final two, as they came via a one-out base hit in the bottom of the eighth inning, ending a 5-5 deadlock with the Sharks.

The surge calmed nerves, as the hosts were able to skate into the ninth with a lead and need just three more outs to win it all. 

Sure enough, moments later, the dogpile started, and someone who grew up watching the Blowfish got to celebrate winning a championship with them.

Blowfish’s Bright Future

Having the achievement on your resume that you helped lead a team to a league championship is an impressive feather in the cap for any head coach, but to do it at the age of just 25? 

Sure enough, that’s the exact situation first-year Blowfish coach KC Brown finds himself in, having completed a dream debut season with a Petitt Cup. 

An assistant in 2022 under the club’s all-time winningest coach, Jonathan Johnson, Brown successfully rallied his team back from a third-place finish in the West in the first half of the season to a 16-8 second half and a playoff spot with the division’s overall championship to boot. 

The Blowfish blew teams away with what was by far the best team batting average in the league at .288 (.14 better than the next-best club, the Peninsula Pilots), along with a CPL-best 436 hits, 345 runs and 277 RBIs. 

His ability to keep the squad calm and enable them to thrive under pressure, both in needing a second-half surge to make the playoffs and the multiple 1-0 deficits the Blowfish faced on their way to the Petitt Cup, must be commended, as it’s a trait that often takes veteran managers years to learn, but it was no issue for Brown, even with his squad on the ropes more than once. 

After the uber-popular Savannah Bananas left the CPL following the 2022 season after back-to-back Petitt Cup titles and converting entirely to being a traveling exhibition team, someone had to step up and fill the void. 

In Lexington County, such a team — with a coach only a year removed from the college game himself — has been found.