Tournaments | Story | 7/3/2019

Knights chasing WWBA glory

Jack Nelson        
Photo: Kade Anderson (Perfect Game)

HOOVER, Ala. – Kade Anderson won’t graduate high school for four more years, but he already has his college decision locked up. In the fall of 2023, the Louisiana native will head to Baton Rouge and Alex Box Stadium to play for LSU. It’s a lifelong dream realized, and he says nothing would have been possible without his club team, the Louisiana Knights 14u Black.

Over the last few years, the Louisiana Knights have become one of the top travel ball organizations in the country. Their reputation has only grown in Hoover. With pool play in the rearview mirror, the Knights look primed for a run at the WWBA 14u National Championship.

“The Knights have gotten my name out there and let me do my thing,” said Anderson. “I’ve just been trying to have fun out there. Compete and do my best. That’s all I can do.”

The Knights wrapped up pool play on Wednesday with a 2-2 tie against the Hit after Hit Outlaws. But the result of the game had no bearing on the outcome of Pool D. Having outscored their opponents 55-7, the Knights went 6-0-1 and will be moving on to bracket play on Thursday.

At the heart of this impressive run is Anderson. At the plate, he is 10-for-18 with 13 RBIs, including two doubles, two triples, and a home run. On the hill, he has thrown 5 2/3 shutout innings with 10 strikeouts.

“He has really dynamic stuff on the mound,” said Knights coach Jeremy Trahan. “He’s up to 85 mph, and that’s really good for a 14 year old. But I also like him as a hitter. He barrels balls to all fields, he can run, and plays an excellent outfield. He has a really positive attitude, and he just gets after it every day. He certainly has a lot of ability.”

But other guys have stepped up, too. Andre Poirrier is hitting .545 over these seven games, and Cole Cranford has not allowed a run over his 6 1/3 innings on the mound. In fact, the Knights have eight hitters batting over .300 and nine pitchers who have yet to allow an earned run. For the moment, Anderson is the only player committed on the roster. But as this group gets older and matures, many more are sure to receive phone calls from eager recruiters.

The Knights boast an impressive laundry list of former players who have moved on to play at powerhouse schools like Ole Miss, Auburn, Miami, and LSU. Dozens more have been drafted, such as 2017 3rd rounder Blayne Enlow and 2018 9th rounder Nick Lee. Last summer, their 15u team captured the WWBA 15u National Championship. This week, they have put themselves in position to add another trophy to their growing collection.

“The program is starting to get so much respect across the country,” said Trahan. “I think (LSU recruiting coordinator) Nolan Cain has been at every one of our games. Mississippi State assistant Jake Gautreau was at a lot of them as well.”

Trahan was impressed with the play all week, and took pride in being able to have such a huge impact on his 14u team. When you see clusters of college scouts behind the backstop, it sometimes gets lost that these kids haven’t even entered high school yet. They are still learning how to play, and most are still growing and maturing.

“I’m a high school coach in Louisiana, so I’m more used to coaching older kids,” he said. “But I’m really enjoying the 14s because even though they are really talented, they also have a lot to learn. It’s rewarding to show them things that are going to help them not just in the summer, but when they get to high school ball as well.”

The Knights stay mostly local when they recruit players, as most of the 14u roster hails from the Bayou State. They screen potential players via recommendations from high school and college coaches in the Mandeville, LA area. And they teach their kids that the players that play the best will be the ones that play the most. They try to instill a competitive spirit, as that will serve them well now and in the future.

“Most of the kids are from Louisiana, and there are a handful from Mississippi,” said Trahan. “We’ve had a lot of success as a program recently and now we are really attracting top talent. Our 17s are in Atlanta doing well right now. We’re a very competitive organization, from top to bottom.”

A unique part about playing for the Knights is that a player on any team at any age has access all of the coaches in the organization. The Knights also have a home that they call the Kastle. Players are given an access code to this indoor facility and they can come in 24/7. They can hit in the cages, take grounders, or throw a bullpen any time they would like, all year long. Needless to say, players are given every resource they could want to achieve their goals.

“We have great coaches across all levels that can get these kids the instruction they need,” said Trahan. “Every one of these guys wants to play at the next level, so our goal is to get them better. Once they are ready, we will get them seen by the right people.”

The mantra of the Knights is #4L, which means “For Life.” They want all players to be connected with the program for the rest of their lives. And they hope alumni develop a sense of pride and believe that they have contributed to something bigger than themselves.

Well, nothing creates a lifelong bond quite like winning a national championship. On Thursday morning, the 14u Knights will get their chance to make some history and leave a lasting mark.

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