Warriors advance to Final Four

Published 2:55 pm Thursday, May 14, 2009

MERRY HILL – Just call them ‘The Crunch Bunch.’

Lawrence Academy’s baseball team – defending North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A state champions – are headed back to Wilson’s Fleming Stadium Friday and early indications are it’s going to take a Herculean effort to wrest away their crown.

Tuesday the Warriors scored eight runs in the first three innings and pummeled Greenfield School of Wilson, 13-4, for their 23rd win of the year thanks to crunching four home runs to bring their season total to 34.

Cameron Pead and Scott Edge ripped solo shots and Kyle Meads hit a pair of dingers with his second shot traveling 15 feet beyond the 390-foot fence in right center field.

Mind you, it’s only 385 to the power alleys at Fleming.

“Some of those might be fly-ball outs in Wilson,” said Warriors coach Robert Kravitz, with a bit of modesty, “but overall I’m real pleased with their at-bats and their overall approach at the plate.”

The four round-trippers were part of a 10-hit attack by the champs as Meads and Edge drove in six of the runs, three each between them. Pead drove in two runs and Evan Holton and Chad Whitehead collected an RBI each.

Whitehead also picked up the win on the mound going two scoreless innings and registering three strikeouts while giving up just two base-on-balls.

Dylan Ralph shouldered the bulk of the load on the hill, going four innings and giving up four runs, three of them unearned, on three hits during a near-disastrous fifth inning where the Warriors committed an uncharacteristic three straight errors.

“Credit Greenfield for that,” added Kravitz, “because they hung in there and gave us a battle.”

Lawrence came ready for battle in the bottom of the first inning as Holton opened the game with a single and, two pitches later, Pead sent his shot flying over the left-center field fence for an early 2-0 lead.

The Warriors opened the second inning with William Norrell getting a base hit followed by a walk issued to T.J. Johnston. After both runners moved into scoring position on a sacrifice fly by Jonathan Brantley, Edge tacked on three more runs with a rocket over the center field fence.

The next batter, Holton, was hit by a pitch, stole second base and reached third on a wild pitch. He didn’t remain on the hot corner for long. Pead hit a high fly ball just over second base and had already rounded first base when the shortstop misplayed it in the sun and Holton scored easily. Whitehead then delivered Pead for the fifth run of the frame and a 7-0 Lawrence lead.

In an interesting third inning, Meads opened with a homerun and two outs later Brantley struck out, but instead of that play ending the inning, he sprinted to first base when the Knights catcher misplayed the ball. After moving to second, Brantley came home when Holton’s line drive went just off the glove of the Greenfield third baseman. This had Lawrence up, 9-0, and it looked like it would be a short afternoon.

Instead, after a scoreless fourth inning, Greenfield made it interesting in the fifth. After the Knights got a single, Lawrence went into ‘miscue-mode’ as two straight errors in attempts at a double-play led to Greenfield’s first run. A base hit scored the second run and then two more runs came across the plate on pitcher Sam Kirk’s double – Greenfield’s only extra-base hit of the game – to make it 9-4.

In the bottom of the fifth, Brantley again figured in some weird scoring as Lawrence got two more runs. With two out he hit a grounder deep in the hole at third base and the throw pulled the first baseman off the bag on what would’ve been the final out, but instead allowed Brantley to reach second.

Shane Leggett’s liner was then misplayed for Greenfield’s fourth error of the day putting runners on second and third. Brantley then scored on a wild-pitch and Holton sent the next pitch to the left field wall and over on one bounce for a ground-rule double that scored Leggett and made it 11-4.

Whitehead opened the sixth inning with a double, took third on a balk by the Knights’ pitcher and came home on Meads’ second home run of the game. Lawrence closed out the contest in the top of the seventh with a double play, sending the Warriors on to Wilson and the Final Four.

“It’s easy to see why they hit so many homeruns,” said Greenfield coach Daniel Johnson, shaking his head after the game, “because when we made a mistake they made us pay for it.

“I’m proud we gave the number-one team in the state a run for their money,” he added, “but gosh – they sure can hit the baseball.”

Lawrence (23-3) opens play in the NCISAA 1-A Final FOur Friday at 1 p.m. against Faith Christian School of Rocky Mount. If the Warriors survive that contest and a second game the final will be Saturday.

“Experience is going to help us out a lot,” said Kravitz, “because some of these guys are making their fourth and fifth semi-final – and hopefully, final. They’ve worked hard to get there and we’ll just see what happens this weekend.”