Knights open state tourney with win

CERRO GORDO — West Bladen opened defense of its Dixie Pre-Majors state baseball title on Saturday with an 11-1 thrashing of West Fayetteville.

The win improves the Knights to 14-5 and sends them into the second round against Saturday night’s winner of the Columbus County versus Duplin County game.

West Bladen jumped all over West Fayetteville early, scoring five runs in the bottom of the first inning. Jeremy Hunt starting things with a double and Seth Britt beat out a bunt — and when the throw sailed into right field, Hunt scored and Britt went to second and stole third before scoring. Chandler Lennon walked, Donald McCullum doubled, Ray Jones laced an RBI single and Hunter Pait smacked an RBI single.

The Knights added four more runs in the home half of the second inning when Hunt singled and went to second on a sacrifice by Britt. Scott Bowen followed with a two-run home run and Trent West slugged a solo home run for back-to-back dingers. Moments later, Lennon worked a walk, went to second on a passed ball, stole third base and scored on another passed ball for a 9-0 lead.

After a scoreless third inning, in which West Fayetteville loaded the bases, the visitors nicked the Knights for a run after loading the bases again in the fourth to avert the shutout.

After a scoreless fifth frame, West Bladen put the game away under the 10-run rule with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Bowen starting things with a single and went to third on a single by West, who then stole second base ahead of McCullum’s two-run single.

I thought we played well,” said West Bladen coach Kim Cain. “We managed to pitched out of some tough situations and hit the ball pretty well. We made a couple errors but, overall, I’m happy.”

Hunt started on the hill for the Knights and earned the win with 4.2 innings of work, striking out seven, walking five and giving up three hits. Jones finished the game, giving up one walk and one hit.”

At the plate, Hunt was 3-for-4 with a double; Britt was 2-for-3; Bowen was 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI; West was 2-for-4 with a home run and RBI; and McCullum was 2-for-2 with three RBI.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.