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Last updated: May 21. 2014 7:56AM - 987 Views
By - cvincent@civitasmedia.com



Bladen Journal file photoWest Bladen's all-star summer team won the Dixie Pre-Majors state championship and qualified for the World Series in Alabama.
Bladen Journal file photoWest Bladen's all-star summer team won the Dixie Pre-Majors state championship and qualified for the World Series in Alabama.
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DUBLIN — May often brings about the collecting of bats, balls and various baseball equipment for most schools in the area in order to get them all put up for safe-keeping until the next season — which is about nine months away.
But the next season for the West Bladen diamond boys starts Tuesday, when they open a summer schedule that could balloon to about 25 games.
Not for just one Knights team, but two.
“It's the same thing we did last summer,” said West Bladen's high-school baseball coach Kim Cain. “We want to keep them playing.”
Cain has put a charge into the baseball program at West Bladen since taking over after the Knights suffered through a 2-22 season a few years ago. In that time, there's hardly been a time of year when Cain isn't doing something baseball related.
The effort paid dividends in a big way last summer, when West Bladen's two summer teams combined into an all-star squad and swept three games to win the Dixie Pre-Majors state tournament. That earned them a berth in the Dixie Pre-Majors World Series in Guntersville, Ala.
“That experience was a good bonding and baseball one for us,” Cain said. “It really helped pull the players together and I could see the difference this season.”
But before the team could take advantage of the experience, the community was asked to pitch in and help fund the trip. And it did, in spades — helping to send the Knights to Alabama and back in style.
“We were just blown away by the community's support,” Cain said back then. “You have no idea what that meant to the boys and all the coaches.”
West Bladen lost both its games in the double-elimination tournament, but gave both Columbus, Ga., and Florida all they could handle before falling 2-1 and 3-0, respectively.
“We saw some really good pitching,” Cain said. “But our defense and pitching was pretty good, too.”
Overall, West Bladen was 9-7 last summer.
This summer, the Knights will be split into two teams — West Bladen 1 and West Bladen 2 — and the split will be made by position and spread varsity and jayvee players between the two before merging for the state tournament.
Andy Waldrop will skipper the West Bladen 1 team, while Steve Pastore will head the West Bladen 2 team. Once the school year is over, Cain and John Ammons will move into the top spot for West Bladen 1.
On Tuesday, West Bladen 1 will open the schedule at home at 6 p.m. against West Columbus, while West Bladen 2 will go on the road to face South Brunswick. Both games will start at 6 p.m.
Cain said the schedule will have single games ever Monday and Tuesday at 6 p.m., and a doubleheader on Thursdays starting at 5 p.m.
“There are big dividends to playing — the more they play, the better they get,” Cain said. “We saw a lot of improvement this spring.
“But it (the summer schedule) also gives us the chance to try players in different positions and work on fundamentals,” he added. “Our goal in the summer isn't winning, it's improving.”
Cain said the team already has it's sights set on a return trip to the Dixie Pre-Majors World Series.
“They've asked about it, but that's a ways off yet,” he said.

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