DUBLIN — The Knights of West Bladen have some big shoes to fill after graduation losses took several players from a 2015 team that finished 12-9 overall and 7-6 in the Four County Conference, but also made some noise in the state’s Class 2-A playoffs.
The Knights opened the playoffs last season with wins over No. 11 Ayden-Grifton, 2-0, and No. 6 Edenton Holmes, 2-1, before losing to No. 3 Croatan, 9-4.
Gone from that team are center-fielder Trevor Lesane, infielder Michael Pastore, pitcher/catcher Colby McLean, pitcher Mason Hester, outfielder Joseph Miller and pinch-runner Malcolm Vaught.
“We lost some solid players — especially Trevor, Colby and Michael,” coach Kim Cain said. “But we’ve got some good players back, too.
“We’ve also got quite a bit of our pitching back, though a couple are dealing with injuries right now,” he added.
That pitching includes senior Jeremy Hunt, senior Chandler Lennon, junior Trent West, junior Jarrett Williams and sophomore Scott Bowen.
Cain said he also has a solid starting lineup, with some good depth to compliment those starters.
Senior Brandon Carson, who came up from the West Bladen jayvee during the season last year, will start behind the plate; Williams is slated to start at first base when he’s not pitching; senior Ray Jones is the starting second sacker; junior Weston Pi9dgeon gets the nod at shortstop; senior Troy Edge will be the starting third-baseman; and the outfield will see senior Donald McCullum in left, senior Seth Britt in center and either Hunt or Bowen in right depending on who might be pitching.
Cain’s designated hitter is expected to be West when he’s not on the mound.
Also playing into West Bladen’s experience are three straight summers of going to the Dixie Youth Pre-Majors World Series — something many of the seniors have participated in each summer.
“Hitting will be our biggest key every game,” Cain said. “I think our pitching, once healthy, will be good and our defense is as good or better than last season.
“We just need to be able to get on the field and play,” he added. “It’s been so wet.”
Cain is pointing at Midway as the gold standard of the conference, while he thinks Clinton, Wallace-Rose Hill and East Bladen could also be improved.
“It’s always a good, solid conference,” he said. “There are no nights off anywhere.”
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.