DUBLIN — The West Bladen Knights are just a day away from the Clash of the Carolinas.
By Friday, the Knights’ baseball caravan will have arrived in Chipley, Fla., for the 2014 Dixie Pre-Majors World Series as the North Carolina champions. They will open on Saturday against South Carolina.
The Knights earned a second straight berth in the World Series by beating South Columbus and Duplin County in the state tournament at Cerro Gordo.
With head coach Kim Cain tied up in Greensboro with the East-West All-Star Football Game this week, assistant coach Steve Pastore has been overseeing the practices and preparation for the trip south.
“The rain has kept us from practicing too much,” he said. “But we’re trying to keep the boys tuned up, just like getting ready for any other game or tournament.”
The Knights will be taking a total of 15 players — Jeremy Hunt, Michael Pastore, Ray Jones, Colby McLean, Trent West, Trevor Lesane, Westin Pridgeon, Mason Hester, Scott Bowen, Donald McCullum, Troy Edge, Joseph Miller, Chandler Lennon, Seth Britt and Garrett Williams. In addition, Matthew Lennon will serve as the team manager.
Four of those player — Hunt, Pastore, McLean and Hester — will be making their second trip to the World Series, and Stave Pastore said that’s been a big help for the rest of the team.
“They’ve taken on a little bit of a leadership role, telling the other guys what to expect,” he said. “We’re a pretty young team, so it’s good to have a few older guys do that.”
Last year, Cain knew his Knights would be facing some top-notch pitching at the World Series, which was held in Guntersville, Ala. And nobody expects it to be any different when West Bladen opens the tournament on Saturday at noon against South Carolina.
But Pastore thinks one of West Bladen’s strengths is in the batter’s box.
“We hit the ball pretty well,” he said. “I think we’ve been swinging the bats better and better, especially in the state tournament. And we hope that continues.”
Overall, Pastore said he thinks the Knights only have youth to overcome.
“We seem to be pretty balanced,” he said. “But they will need to stay focused. And I’m sure Kim would say that our pitchers need to throw strikes and let the defense play behind them. That’s always a concern for any team.”
The team pulled out of Bladenboro on Thursday for the 600-mile trip. On Friday evening, there will be a welcome ceremony and banquet before play starts on Saturday.
Should West Bladen win Saturday’s Clash of the Carolinas, they would advance to the second round Sunday at 4 p.m. against the winner of Saturday’s game between Georgia and Tennessee. But a loss Saturday sends the Knights to the consolation round for a 10 a.m. game Sunday against the Georgia-Tennessee loser.