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Warriors win #110; Wilson bound

MERRY HILL – Lawrence Academy baseball coach Robert Kravitz knew the perfect motivation for his team in Tuesday’s 1A NCISAA quarterfinal: he didn’t need a fire-and-brimstone speech, he merely placed the Tarheel Independent Conference regular-season and tournament championship trophies in the dugout prior to the Warriors’ game with Hobgood Academy. 

Gleaming there in the afternoon Bertie County sunlight they were inspiration as well as a reminder the job is not finished.

The Warriors are a lot closer to that prize of a state championship now as they powered their way to the independent schools Final-Four with a 10-3 victory over the Raiders for their fourth win over Hobgood this season.

&uot;It scares you to play a team four times&uot;, said a relaxed Kravitz after the contest, &uot;because they’re a good team, but we came out on top&uot;.

The Warriors accomplished that in the bottom of the fourth inning when they sent 14 men to the plate accounting for nine runs on eight hits and chasing Hobgood starter Billy Thompson.

Thompson had cruised thru the first three innings, as he faced nine batters while giving up only a single hit. He was also staked to a 1-0 lead when the Raiders pushed across the first run of the game in the top of the fourth. 

Gage Parrish legged out a two-base error, then scored on Jeremy Joyner’s single to right field. The Raiders might’ve done more damage but with a runner on third, Jake Mitchell charged a hard shot to third and fired home to catcher Chad Whitehead to prevent another run from scoring.

And that’s when the Lawrence fireworks began: Evan Holton and T.J. Johnston opened the inning with back-to-back singles that put runners on the corners.  

Back-to-back walks to Judd Whitehead and Chad Whitehead produced the first run of the game for the Warriors and tied the score at 1-1. J.T. Lilley then sent a shot to rightfield that scored Johnston and Judd Whitehead for a 3-1 Lawrence lead.

Daniel Oliver’s single scored Chad Whitehead and the barrage continued with Gray Harrell delivering two more runs before Jake Mitchell followed with two more runs scoring on his single to right and an 8-1 score. 

After Hobgood made a pitching change Joe Harrell would score the final run on Chad Whitehead’s second RBI of the inning.  The Warriors headed back to the field to start the fifth inning sporting a 9-1 lead.

&uot;Once again the big inning killed us,&uot; said Hobgood coach John Whitehead afterward. &uot;At our place it was a 10-run first inning (in a 13-3 loss April 17th at Hobgood), but today they hit a few hard balls and they hit ’em into some gaps, and it looked like we just couldn’t get anybody out.&uot;

Hobgood plated two runs on three hits in the top of the fifth to make it a six-run deficit before Joe Harrell came on in the sixth inning to retire the side in order.

Chad Whitehead closed out a three-RBI game with one more run delivered in the bottom of the sixth, and Harrell sent the Lawrence fans home happy with a scoreless seventh and the Warriors were headed off to Wilson Friday with a 10-3 win. 

Lawrence wins its 20th game of the year and will next face Greenfield School for the third time this season when they play the Knights at 1 p.m. Friday in the 1-A Final Four at Wilson’s historic Fleming Stadium. Waccamaw Academy will play Wayne Country Day at 4 p.m. and the first championship game is set for 7 p.m. 

&uot;We’re definitely confident,&uot; said a smiling Kravitz, &uot;but not over confident and that’s a good thing too.  They know a lot of teams are shooting for ’em, but they play better like that too. That’s going to be one of our strengths, the experience that we have.  I just hope that can carry us.&uot;