Blankenship's arm, bat have Raiders on roll Pitcher helps propel Atholton to 4-1 beginning

April 18, 1993|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Staff Writer

If Atholton's Richard Blankenship continues to play as well as he has through the Raiders' first five games, he'll keep his team in contention for a county championship.

The Raiders (4-1) were co-champs with Glenelg last season and are 2-1 in league play so far this season, having lost only to Glenelg (3-0 in the league).

Atholton coach Kevin Kelly counted on the senior right-hander to be one of his top two starting pitchers this season.

"I took him aside and told him that he would be one of my main guys," Kelly said.

Blankenship is living up to that expectation with a 2-0 record that includes two complete games. In 14 innings he has struck out 14, walked just one batter and allowed 11 hits and three runs.

But Kelly never dreamed that Blankenship would hit the way he has.

He is 7-for-16 (.438) and all seven hits have driven in runs. He has eight RBI, six singles and one double.

Blankenship has driven in runs in four of Atholton's five games, including the winning run in Thursday's victory over Mount Hebron.

"His bat has surprised me," Kelly said. "On the junior varsity level he struck out a lot."

Blankenship has struck out three times this season.

"I used to be afraid of being hit by the pitch, but this year I'm staying in there at the plate and I don't care if I get hit or not," he said. "I'm surprised by my hitting."

His batting prowess is even more surprising considering that he played almost no baseball last summer.

"I played at most four games in the Savage Boys and Girls Club," Blankenship said.

The 6-foot, 185-pounder also played two varsity seasons of football and basketball, but didn't achieve the accomplishments that he hoped for in those sports.

This is Blankenship's last chance at high school sports glory and he's making the most of it.

He pitched a six-hitter against Wilde Lake in a game won by Atholton, 17-2. He struck out five and didn't walk a batter.

He allowed five hits, one run and one walk in Thursday's 4-1 victory over Mount Hebron in the championship game of the Atholton Tournament.

Blankenship does not have an overpowering fastball. And his only other pitch is a change-up. But he changes speeds well and his excellent control allows him to throw to good locations.

"The most important thing about pitching is location," Kelly said. "And changing speeds is next. Rich has a good arm motion and achieves the same arm speed with both his pitches."

"Coach Kelly and I work a lot on location during practice," said Blankenship, who hopes to play for George Bickerton's Howard County Hawks this summer.

His three walks in 14 innings is a statistic that most high school pitchers would envy.

"You have to hit him, because he sure won't walk you," Kelly said.

He'd like to attend Catonsville Community College next fall and take a shot at pitching for the Cardinals.

When not pitching, he has been playing third base for Atholton and has played errorless ball in two of his three games at that position.

"I'd just like to keep things going the way they are right now," said Blankenship, who bats fifth in Atholton's lineup.

"I've been lucky that my teammates have gotten on base ahead of me so much."

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