By Sonny Jones
ELIZABETHTOWN — Brady Durden was dealing Friday night and the West Bladen baseball team swept a season-series against in-county rival East Bladen for the first time since 2015.
Durden pitched a seven-hit complete game as the Knights battled past the Eagles 5-3 at Russell Priest Field. The sophomore right-hander struck out seven, walked two and allowed only one earne run while using a sharp-breaking curve that kept East Bladen batters off balance throughout the game. He threw 95 pitches with 69 for strikes.
The Knights beat East Bladen 4-2 and 11-6 in 2015 for their last season sweep. East Bladen had won eight consecutive games against the Knights prior to Tuesday’s 5-4 West Bladen victory.
West Bladen improved to 10-3 this season, 3-1 in the Southeastern Athletic Conference. It’s the most wins in a season for the Knights since a 13-10 record in 2017.
East Bladen dropped to 2-4 in the SAC, 4-8 overall. The Eagles will be off until April 8 when they participate in the Terry Sanford High Easter tournament in Fayetteville.
West Bladen is scheduled to play at Fairmont on Tuesday and host the Golden Tornadoes on Wednesday.
Garrett Dunham went 1-for-2 and drove home two runs with a single to left-center that opened the scoring. Durden was 2-for-4. Bryce Fuller, Cade Allen and Andre Moore each had a hit.
Tyler Johnson, Zamar Lewis and Weston Hatcher each went 2-for-3 for East Bladen. Coleman Tatum and a RBI single in the fourth inning.
Evan Pait was the losing pitcher. The senior right-hander went four innings and allowed four runs — two earned — on four hits, struck out eight and walked four. Coleman Tatum pitched the final three innings and yielded a run on two hits with two strikeouts and two walks.
East Bladen had five runners thrown out on the bases, two on steal attempts, one trying to score, another tagged out at third and a runner picked off first base.
Dunham’s two-run single in the third snapped a scoreless tie and drove home Moore, who had walked, and Fuller, who had drawn a two-out walk, for the Knights.
West Bladen made it 4-0 in the top of the fourth with a pair of unearned runs. Hunter Smith opened the frame with a walk and Durden followed with a single to left-center. After the next two batters struck out, Moore walked to load the bases. Hezekiah Blanks-Adams’ ground ball was misplayed that allowed Smith and courtesy runner Mason Jones to score.
East Bladen cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the fourth. Johnson opened with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a throwing error. Ty Mathis, who had walked, later scored on Coleman’ Tatum’s two-out single to center.
The Eagles cut it to 4-3 in the fifth. Marlan Davis drew a one-out walk, stole second and scored on Johnson’s single up the middle.
West Bladen added an insurance run in the sixth when Fuller had a two-out single to right that plated Moore, who had walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
West Bladen 002 201 0 — 5-6-3
East Bladen 000 210 0 — 3-7-2