Lawrence reaches Final Four

Published 2:05 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2011

MERRY HILL – If it’s May, it must be time for Lawrence Academy’s baseball team to head to their ‘second home’: Wilson’s Fleming Stadium.

The Warriors are headed back to Tobaccoville and the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Assocation Final Four for the seventh straight year and where they are the three-time defending state champs after a 5-3 win on their home field against Wayne Country Day School of Goldsboro.

It was Lawrence’s 23rd win of the year.

Ryan Lilley went 3-for-4 and scored two runs. Cameron Blowe was 2-for-3 and drove in a run. Perry Wynns scored twice for the Warriors while Darren Armstrong scored once.

Armstrong was even stronger on the mound where the right-hander went the distance, surrendering seven hits while striking out 11 and giving up just one base-on-balls. He also hit two batters.

Tyson Pearson absorbed the loss for the eighth-seeded Chargers, who ended their season at 13-10. Pearson gave up 10 hits with three walks and six strikeouts. He also scored one of WCDS’ runs.

“They’re pretty young,” said Warriors’ coach Robert Kravitz after the game, “but we expected a battle and we got one. We’re just glad we came out on top.”

Maybe it was post-season jitters, but thanks to a pair of leadoff hits both teams would get runners in scoring position in the first inning – including WCDS loading the bases with one out; but a pair of strikeouts by both hurlers in their halves of the frame left the game scoreless.

Lawrence struck first in the second inning.

Wynns led off with a base hit and went to third on Blowe’s base hit that followed and Blowe took second on an errant throw from the outfield. Tyler Brickhouse picked up the first RBI of the game as his sacrifice fly scored Wynns to make it 1-0, Warriors.

A dropped ball in the outfield by Lawrence got a WCDS runner aboard in the top of the third inning and, despite hitting a batter to put runners on first and second, Armstrong was able to avoid trouble with a strikeout and a ground out.

Lawrence would make it 3-0 in their half of the third when Armstrong got a two-out base hit.  Wynns followed and was hit on the shoulder by a Pearson offering to get two aboard.

Blowe then drove one into the gap in left-center field to plate Armstrong and later Wynns scored on an error before a flyout ended a chance at more damage for the Chargers.

Alert two-out play helped Lawrence again in the bottom of the fourth. Lilley singled for his second hit of the game; stole second, later stole third and came home on an error by the catcher on a pick-off play to make it 4-0.

The Charger bats finally came alive in the top of the fifth inning.

Bryce Creger was struck on the side of the face trying to avoid an Armstrong fastball and the crowd grew silent as he staggered toward first base before collapsing.  Creger had lost a tooth during the exchange and was taken to the emergency room at Bertie Memorial in Windsor for oral surgery.

The play seemed to inspire his teammates. Cody Neal reached on a fielder’s choice and, one-out later, Hill Tanner followed with a blooper to center field to put runners on the corners.

Back-to-back-to-back base hits followed and scored a trio of runs for WCDS. The Chargers even had the tying run on second base before a fly-out to second base ended the inning and left the visitors only down by a run at, 4-3.

Lawrence got an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth.

Robert Thompson singled, but was thrown out trying to score on the next play when Lilley doubled to the wall in center field. One out later, however, Jim Porter was able to single through the hole and deliver Lilley for a two-run cushion for the Warriors.

Armstrong registered two quick outs in the top of the seventh before Pearson doubled to the fence in right field and later stole third. Trent Proimos stood in the box representing the potential tying run, but Armstrong ended the threat – and the game – by getting him to chase a curveball.

“Lawrence capitalized on our mistakes,” lamented WCDS coach Michael Taylor, “and we just didn’t get the timely hits.

“But we didn’t give up,” he added, “and the only teams we’ve lost to this year are the ones going to Wilson in the Final Four (Lawrence, Greenfield, Trinity and Faith Christian).”

When asked if this year could be considered his best coaching job Kravitz chuckled and nodded toward the players running windsprints in the outfield.

“I don’t know if it’s my best,” he said, “but they’re certainly the hardest working bunch I’ve ever had.”