DUBLIN — For the better part of three innings on Thursday, West Bladen No. 2 had designs on putting an end to visiting South Columbus’ eight-game winning streak. Those designs went sour in the fourth inning, however, and the Stallions notched their ninth straight win, 8-4, in Dixie Pre-Majors action.
In a game that easily could have been called because of lightning after the fifth and sixth innings, South Columbus broke open a tight game with three runs in the fourth frame and added two more in the fifth to all but seal the verdict.
The Knights opened the scoring in the home half of the first inning when Troy Edge walked and went all the way to third when a pickoff throw went deep into foul territory. Michael Pastore then struck out on a pitch that was in the dirt and got away from the catcher, allowing Pastore not only to reach first, but Edge to score from third base for a 1-0 lead.
Pastore then stole second base, but was left stranded.
After a scoreless second inning in which both teams went down in order, the Stallions manufactured a pair of runs with benefit of one hit — but got help in the way of a walk, an error and a stolen base — and took a 2-1 lead.
But West Bladen answered in the bottom of the third with two runs of its own. Ian Sykes led off with an infield single but was erased on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Jeremy Hunt, who quickly stole second. Edge then reached on an error that sent Hunt home, and Edge promptly stole second base — and the throw went into centerfield, allowing Edge to proceed to third base, where the ensuing throw got away and sent Edge scampering home without a play.
The Knights’ 3-2 lead didn’t hold up long.
Hunt, West Bladen’s starter who had pitched in and out of trouble most of the evening, was touched for four hits and three runs in the top of the fourth by South Columbus. A walk and a Knights error didn’t help matters and, when it was over, the Stallions held a 5-3 edge.
West Bladen got a leadoff single from Brandon Carson in the bottom of the inning, but couldn’t get anything else going.
The Stallions rose up again in the fifth frame, this time against Pastore, who had relieved Hunt on the hill. Three singles, a walk, hit batter and a balk all led to a pair of South Columbus runs and gave the visitors a 7-3 lead.
The Knights put two runners on base with two outs in the home half of the fifth, thanks to a walk and hit batter, but couldn’t get the key hit.
South Columbus went quietly in the sixth and West Bladen could manage only an innocent, two-out single by T.J. Guyton in its half of the inning.
In the seventh, the Stallions took advantage of two successive errors by the Knights, and a sacrifice fly brought home their eighth run of the game for an 8-3 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Sykes walked with one out and a fielder’s choice off the bat of John Bowen was botched by the Stallions, putting two runners on for Hunt, who roped a double to left-center that scored Sykes and moved Bowen to third. But the rally and the game ended there.
“We have to work hard to manufacture runs,” said West Bladen coach Steve Pastore. “It’s a real plus when the bottom of the order can get something going for us.
“Tonight was tough,” he added. “I thought they’d call the game.”
Hunt took the loss for West Bladen after going four innings and giving up five runs on six hits. He walked three and struck out three. In relief, Pastore worked three innings and gave up three runs on four hits. He walked one, hit two batters and fanned four.
At the plate for the Knights, Hunt was 1-for-3 with a double and RBI, while Pastore, Carson, Guyton and Sykes each had a single. Edge had an RBI for West Bladen.
West Bladen No. 1 and No. 2 will combine their teams for a Saturday game at home against Hope Mills, starting at noon.