CHIPLEY, Fla. — Missed opportunities left the North Carolina Dixie Pre-Majors champions from West Bladen with plenty to think about on their 621-mile ride home to Bladen County this week.
The Knights, coming off Sunday’s 15-run, three-inning win against Georgia’s champions that saw West Bladen rip 11 hits and end the game in less than three innings, found themselves stymied on Monday in a 3-2 heartbreaking loss to Arkansas that ended their run in the World Series.
“We didn’t hit early,” said West Bladen assistant coach Steve Pastore. “And when we did, we hit it really hard right at someone and they made the play.”
After a scoreless first inning, the Arkansas champions scored a pair of runs with two outs in the top of the second inning to take a 2-0 lead.
Arkansas added a run in the top of the third to open a 3-0 edge, but West Bladen appeared to have something cooking in the home half of the third. Walks to Joseph Miller and Ray Jones, followed by a sacrifice bunt from Westin Pridgeon put the two runners in scoring position — but the threat fizzled there.
In the bottom of the fourth frame, a smash by Trevor Lesane down the third-base line was snagged by the third baseman. But the Knights went on to load the bases with two outs on a hit batter and two walks — all to no avail.
West Bladen finally pushed across a run in the fifth when an error allowed Pridgeon to reach base and a pickoff that went awry sent him scampering to second base. A wild pitch moved Pridgeon to third and another wild pitch brought him home to cut the Knights’ deficit to 3-1.
In the sixth inning, Trent West smoked a double to the left-field corner and went to third on a wild pitch. Colby McLean smashed a ball that was snared on the infield and, with two outs, a grounder by Troy Edge was misplayed and allowed West to score.
In the bottom of the seventh and final frame, West Bladen put together an inning that put Knights’ fans on a roller coaster. Pridgeon legged out an infield hit to open the inning, but a hard hopper back to the pitcher by Michael Pastore resulted in a double play. Lesane followed with a single to rekindle the hopes, but moments later he was safe on a steal attempt — then tagged out as he slide past the bag, ending the game.
“It was a tough game,” Pastore said. “We really should have been playing later that day (against the Texas champions), but the breaks didn’t go our way. One hit at the right time would have made the difference, but you never know. The boys will be thinking about that game for a long time to come.”
Chandler Lennon took the hard-luck loss for West Bladen, pitching six innings and giving up the three runs on five hits, three walks and striking out two. Mason Hester hurled the seventh inning and retired the side in order.
“Chandler pitched a great game for us,” Pastore said. “He kept us in the ball game and deserved to win.”
At the plate, West Bladen managed just three hits — a double by West and singles from Lesane and Pridgeon.