Knights ousted from Dixie Youth Pre-Majors state tournament

LELAND — The streak is over. There will be no four-peat.

West Bladen’s three straight Dixie Youth Pre-Majors state championship run came to an end Tuesday when the Knights fell twice in the state tournament at North Brunswick High, snuffing out a fourth straight trip to the Dixie Youth Pre-Majors World Series.

Coach Kim Cain’s boys found themselves in the loser’s bracket after Saturday’s opening-round 10-4 loss to Columbus County, then fell behind 5-2 to Brunswick County on Sunday before lightning caused the game to be suspended in the third inning.

Mother Nature wasn’t much kinder on Monday and forced play to be postponed to Tuesday, which, despite heavy rains Monday afternoon, dawned sunny and warm to allow the tournament to continue.

The Knights took the field to resume the game with Brunswick County, but could not produce any offense over the next five frames. Brunswick County, however, tacked on two runs in the third inning and held on for a 7-2 win — putting West Bladen’s collective backs against the wall, one loss away from elimination.

With Knights starter Ian Sykes already out of the game, Trey Storms pitched a scoreless fourth and fifth inning before Scott Bowen hurled a scoreless sixth inning and Caleb Sholar pitched a scoreless seventh.

Later in the day, the Knights faced Columbus County once again and got out of the gate quickly.

After two scoreless innings, West Bladen plated three runs in the third when a Trent West single and two walks loaded the bases, followed by a bases-clearing double by Caleb Sholar for a 3-0 lead.

But Columbus County came back with four runs in the fourth, helped by three walks and a passed ball, to take a 4-3 edge.

The next two innings were relatively quiet but, in the home half of the seventh, West Bladen put together the start of something big. Weston Pidgeon and Jarrett Williams drew one-out walks and West followed with a long drive that had three-run, game-winning home run written all over it.

But the Columbus County centerfielder managed to track the ball to wall and made the catch inches from the top of the fence. Both West Bladen runners were off with the crack of the bat and, when the catch was made, neither could retreat fast enough.

Double play.

End of game.

End of tournament.

“No excuses, but we went two weeks (before the tournament) without much playing or practice,” said Cain, who spent those two weeks dealing with the death of a good friend in Eddie Deese and his own father-in-law. “I just wasn’t thinking about baseball much, if at all.”

Williams took the loss on the mound for West Bladen, pitching the first five frames. He was relieved by Storms, who hurled the sixth inning before West and Bowen pitched the seventh.

The Knights finished the summer season 7-7-2 overall.

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