DUBLIN — Without the benefit of a tune-up game and coming off more than two weeks since its last game, the West Bladen Knights’ Dixie Youth Pre-Majors summer league team will open defense of its three-time North Carolina title on Saturday in Leland.
Coaches for the competing teams were expected to hold a meeting Friday evening to discuss the tournament and get brackets set. All games will be played at North Brunswick High School.
According to West Bladen head coach Kim Cain, there has been little or no information available to know what other teams will be competing.
“We probably won’t know for sure until we meet,” Cain said Wednesday. “But I’ve heard Columbus County, Brunswick County and Duplin County will have a team — and all three will be formidable.”
Cain said West Bladen will probably open the tournament at 1 p.m. against Columbus County on Saturday.
The Knights won the state championship in 2013, 2014 and 2015 to earn a berth in the Pre-Majors World Series. That event has been held in Guntersville, Ala., in two of the years West Bladen has competed. The other year it was held in Florida. The 2016 World Series will again be in Guntersville.
The summer season has been wracked with postponements and cancellations, primarily because of weather. The Knights were only able to play 13 of the scheduled 20-game season, and one of those was a non-league game against Fayetteville Christian that ended in a 5-5 knot. It also caused the league to go without its planned season-ending tournament.
But West Bladen finished the season on the positive side of the ledger with a 7-4-1 league mark and 7-4-2 overall.
The Knights will go into the state tournament with plenty of experience, a handful of players who have been to the World Series before. On the mound, West Bladen is led by the likes of Trent West, Ian Sykes, Trey Storms, Jarrett Williams and Scott Bowen.
“And after Trent, it’s in no particular order,” Cain said. “They can all pitch at any time, and I think the key to winning this tournament wlil be the pitching.”
The rest of the Knights’ roster includes Jonathan Ashworth, Jalen Drew, Cody Garner, Thomas Guyton, Dalton Pait, Hunter Pait, Jonathan Robinson, Caleb Sholar, Brandon Strange and Logan West.
“We’re not that young, but we have had to put players in other positions,” Cain said after the summer league season. “We’ve also had trouble hitting the ball, so it’s hard to say how we’ll do.
“A lot depends on the competition,” he added. “But if we make it (to Alabama), the competition will be stiff. We know that.”
In 2013 West Bladen was 0-2 at the World Series; in 2012 the Knights went 1-2; and in 2015, West was 2-2 — all playing against primarily combined all-star teams from Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and Louisiana.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.