CERRO GORDO — West Bladen’s hopes for a return trip to the Dixie Pre-Majors World Series rests on a matchup with Duplin County on Sunday afternoon.
The Knights swept two games on Saturday to open defense of their 2013 state tournament title, nipping Duplin County in the opener 15-13, then shellacking Columbus County in the second game 14-2. Duplin County and West Bladen will face off Sunday at 5 p.m. in the championship, and Duplin County must beat the Knights twice in order to win the title. A win by the Knights would give them a repeat championship and send them to Chipley, Fla., for the World Series later this month.
West Bladen got plenty of production at the plate as they put 28 hits into the books. It also got some stellar pitching along the way, as Trent West hurled three scoreless innings in the first game to earn the win; Jeremy Hunt pitched a one-hitter in the second game to get the win.
West Bladen erupted for six two-out, first-inning runs to open the game — sparked by a solo home run from Trevor Lesane. Moments later, with two on base, Chandler Lennon walloped a three-run home run for a 4-0 lead. Joseph Miller followed with a double and two walks loaded the bases before a wild pitch and passed ball scored two runs.
Duplin County closed the deficit to 6-4 in the bottom of the first, but the Knights got a run back in the second on an RBI single from West.
Duplin County whittled the gap to 7-6 with a pair of runs in the second, but West Bladen exploded for seven runs in the third to take a 14-6 lead. After loading the bases, RBI walks to Michael Pastore and Lesane started the scoring and West ripped another RBI single. Colby McLean laced an RBI single and Lennon worked an RBI walk before a wild pitch and RBI by Miller added two runs.
Duplin County scored three runs in the bottom of the inning to pull within 14-9, but West Bladen got a run back in the fourth behind an RBI single from Pastore.
The lead was threatened in the bottom of the fourth when Duplin County scored four runs against Knights starter Mason Hester. But West came on in relief and closed the door the rest of the way.
Lennon and Miller each went 2-for-3 at the plate for West Bladen, while West was 3-for-5 and Weston Pidgeon was 2-for-5.
Hunt was the story in the nightcap, as he controlled the game from the hill by throwing a one-hitter at Columbus County. Along the way, he scattered three walks and fanned seven to earn the win.
After Columbus County took a 1- lead in the home half of the second inning, West Bladen scored four times in the top of the third behind a two-run triple by Lennon, an RBI single by McLean and an RBI goundout from Hunt.
Columbus County cut the deficit in half with a run in the third, but the Knights added a pair of runs in the top of the fourth behind RBI doubles from Lesane and West.
In the top of the fifth, West Bladen got three runs when Lennon smashed a triple, Pidgeon laced an RBI single, Pastore stroked an RBI single and a wild pitch sent in another run for a 9-2 edge.
With Hunt in control, West Bladen added five insurance runs in the sixth behind an RBI single by Pidgeon, a bases-loaded walk to Pastore and groundout RBI by Miller. West tagged a ball that barely missed going out, but still went for a two-run triple to finish the scoring and give the Knights the win.
West led West Bladen at the plate, going 4-for-4 with the pair of triples, a double and five RBI. Pidgeon was 4-for-5 with two RBI and Lennon was 2-for-3 with a triple. Lesane finished 2-for-3 with the double and RBI.