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Lawrence baseball ‘Ring Ceremony’

MERRY HILL – Last May it must have felt like the weight of an 800-pound gorilla was lifted off the shoulders of Lawrence Academy Baseball Coach Robert Kravitz when his Warrior baseball team won the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A baseball state championship in three straight games at Wilson’s historic Fleming Stadium.

In three previous tries Kravitz had come home to Merry Hill a bridesmaid with no bouquet as he had to graciously watch other teams celebrate a title.

But things turned in 2008 and for he and his team’s efforts the school and the community honored the team during halftime last Friday night of the Trinity-Lawrence football game with a special championship ring ceremony.

A crowd of nearly 200 fans cheered and applauded as the team members assembled in a line on the field and as their names were called stepped forward to accept their jewelry.

“Four times at the state championship in four years and to finally win it is quite an accomplishment,” said Kravitz following the ceremony and the adulation of the crowd. “Now the tough thing is to try to repeat next year.”

In 2008 his Warriors held the top spot in the NCISAA poll wire-to-wire from March to May and won their first title since 2002 under then-coach Mike Dail. In the four-team state finals Lawrence defeated Faith Christian, 10-5, and then swept a pair from ’06 champion Waccamaw Academy, 10-0 and 11-3, to finish their season at 21-2.

Even though they came into the finals with the state’s top pitching rotation it was their bats that did the stinging as they outscored their opposition, 31-8.

As for re-loading for next year, the Warriors lost six seniors and two starters in infielder J.T. Lilley and outfielder Joe Harrell; plus pitcher R.J. Deppisch, who is now on the roster at N.C. State.

The 2008 squad will be a senior-dominated team and his juniors and sophomores coming up from the junior varsity ranks will help fill out what shapes up as a potent roster.

“We lost six total seniors, but we have a big group of underclassmen coming back,” said Kravitz, “a lot of juniors and sophomores and a real strong senior class. Hopefully we’ll get a repeat and next year’s ring ceremony will be a lot better.”

“I think we can repeat,” added pitcher/first baseman Daniel Oliver. “We’ve got everything from last year, and maybe we’ll even be a little bit better. That’s saying a lot but we’re going to be really talented.”

“The good leadership from Joe (Harrell) is one thing we’re going to really miss,” he added. “Defensively we were pretty solid and the guys we have stepping in are up for the challenge. From our pitching to our infield to our outfield and our hitting we’re ready to step in and step up so I think we’ll be pretty good.”

As the team waved to the adoring crowd amidst the digital flash cameras and video recorders Oliver also took the time to reflect on what the championship ceremony meant.

“After coming close so many times we’ve wanted this for forever,” said the grinning Oliver, “because we worked really hard and it feels great to finally get it. It takes a lot of pressure off us and off coach.”