Warriors repeat as state champs

Published 1:55 pm Tuesday, May 19, 2009

WILSON – Relentless…that’s the best description of the offensive display the Lawrence Academy baseball team put on in their championship finale against Kerr-Vance Academy to claim their second consecutive North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association title Saturday at Wilson’s Fleming Stadium.

The Warriors had to come from behind in their first two games Friday in Tobacco Town, but Saturday they left no doubt as to their dominance on the field with a 20-hit attack that put them over the top with a 16-2 victory. It was Lawrence’s fifth straight trip to the championship series.

“It’s the first time this season we’ve batted one-through-nine,” said a drenched coach Robert Kravitz, who was doused with a Gatorade shower by his players following the win, as every player in the Lawrence starting lineup posted at least a safety and in the third inning saw his team get eight consecutive base hits off KVA pitching.

Cameron Pead went 4-for-4 and senior Daniel Oliver closed out his prep career by going 3-for-4 in the title tilt and driving in four runs. His towering three-run homerun in the top of the second inning helping seal the win. Oliver was also joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Chad Whitehead, Evan Holton and Jonathan Brantley.

“It’s great to go back-to-back,” said a grinning Oliver after the Lawrence players rushed the field following the win and jumped into a huge pile of joyous humanity on the mound atop winning pitcher and fellow senior Brantley . “It’s almost like this kind of validates our talent as a team that we could do it back-to-back and it proves that last year was no fluke.

“I just feel good being able to go out as a senior and to go out on top,” he added.

Lawrence defeated Faith Christian 3-2 in the semifinals and then turned back the Spartans 7-3 in the first game of the best-of-three series before putting on an offensive barrage in the deciding contest. It was obvious their playoff experience showed when it counted most.

“No one works harder than us,” added Oliver, “and today it paid off.”

Lawrence opened the game played under sunny skies at the historic ball park with singles by Holton, Cameron Peed and Whitehead. William Norrell followed with a shot to left field that scored Holton with the first run of the game as the KVA outfielder couldn’t run down the hit deep in left field but was able to recover and throw out pinch-runner Shane Leggett.

After an out, Pead scored on a wild pitch and staked the Warriors to a 2-0 lead after a half-inning of play.

In the second inning, Blake Hill reached on an error and then, on a bunt by Dylan Ralph, was able to score all the way from first base. Holton then singled to center to score Ralph and make it 4-0, Lawrence.

Pead then reached on another bunt to put runners on the corners. After a fly-out, Oliver came up and put the 2-0 offering by KVA starter Chandler Loyd over the left field fence for a three-run bomb and a 7-0 lead for the Warriors.

In the third inning, Lawrence chased starter Loyd and put on a hitting clinic. With one on and one out Pead, Whitehead, Oliver, Meads, Norrell, T.J. Johnston, Hill and Ralph all collected hits in order and all eight scored, with Ralph scoring twice in the frame for nine more Lawrence runs.

On the mound, Warrior right-hander Brantley had been breezing along with a shutout thru the first three innings before the Spartans’ pushed across two fourth inning runs on Tyler Bolton’s double, a walk to Loyd, singles by Cody Evans and Tyler Overby and John Allen’s sacrifice fly, but still trailed by 14 runs.

Brantley’s fastball and slider worked effectively to produce six strikeouts and he surrendered just one base-on-balls and the two earned runs on a six-hitter.

“That lead made it a whole lot easier to go out there and just pitch,” said Brantley. “We had the pitching staff to go all the way.”

“We knew this could happen if everything snowballed,” said Kerr-Vance coach Dave Kline. “We knew we would have to play our best game twice.”

“Last night (the 7-3 loss in the first game) was probably our best shot,” he added, “but that fell apart late and today we just ran out of gas. They were going to hit whatever we put up there.”

“In Friday’s games we were on the ropes both times and we hit the ball late in the game,” said Kravitz.

Then with a smile he added, “I guess we just couldn’t stop hitting.”