Northeast claims McLawhorn tourney

Published 9:45 am Friday, April 13, 2012

LASKER – “The Claw”, as the late Sgt. Will McLawhorn was known, would’ve loved it; and maybe been a bit humbled by it all.

McLawhorn, a Northeast Academy grad and member of the 101st Airborne “Screamin’ Eagles”, died defending his country in Afghanistan in December of 2010.

As a way of honoring his memory and helping his community, his friends, family and NEA put together the Will McLawhorn Scholarship Baseball Tournament in Lasker this week with four area teams – Northeast, Ridgecroft School, Northampton-East, and Bethel Christian Academy – participating.

When it ended in the very cool air on Wednesday night, McLawhorn’s beloved Northeast Academy had claimed the crown with an 11-1 win over Bethel.

“It was an honor to just play in this tournament,” said an emotional Northeast baseball coach, Billy-Boy Bridgers. “I helped coach that kid a little bit and I’m glad we could win this tournament in his honor.”

The title game featured an early pitching duel before the host Eagles seized control in the fourth and fifth innings and locked up the win, their eighth of the year against two losses.

Will Glover led the charge, going 1-for-3 and driving in three runs. Teammates Clay Robbins and Willie Rose were both 2-for-3 and drove in a pair of runs each.

Pitcher Ryan Williams went the distance, twirling a two-hitter and striking out seven batters while walking just one.

“It was a little slow waking (these guys) up, but once they did they knew they were playing for a very special young man,” joked Bridgers.

Bethel was led by Joseph Ginn who scored the visitor Eagles’ lone run and blasted a double.

Kyle Freeman started on the mound for Bethel with a three-up-and-three-down inning; the same as Williams had done in his half of the frame.

Adam Fairless opened the second inning with a base hit up the middle and advanced to second on Trent Davidson’s sacrifice.  He then proceeded to third base with just one out on a wild pitch.

But he was left stranded as Williams struck out two of the next three batters despite giving up his only base-on-balls of the game.

In the bottom of the inning, Northeast’s Logan Simonowich drew a two-out walk, stole second and later third, but never made it home as Fairless, in relief of Freeman, struck out the next batter.

Bethel finally broke through and put up the first run of the game in the top of the third.  Ginn rocketed a shot down the first base line and dug it out for a stand-up double.  He then stole third and came home on an errant pick-off move for a 1-0 Bethel lead.

The lead seemed to fire up Bethel as Fairless struck out the side in the bottom of the frame.

But maybe that’s what fired up Northeast.

Benton Barrett opened the bottom of the fourth with a walk as Fairless began to have control problems with his pitches.  Barrett went on the steal second and later third before Rose hit a poke down the left field line that scored the equalizer.

Rose didn’t stay on first for long as Clay Robbins, the next batter, hit a rope to left field that brought home the go-ahead run.  However, Robbins was tagged out in a rundown as he tried to stretch his base hit into a double.

Northeast’s next two runs were unearned as back-to-back walks led to a couple of scores thanks to two passed-balls and three wild pitches.  The extra runs put the home team up, 4-1.

Northeast would end it in the bottom of the fifth, much to the delight of the crowd shivering in the 30-degree chill; getting eight runs on four hits.

Barrett led off with a walk, moved to third on Rose’s second base-hit of the game, and came home when Robbins drove him in.

Brad Johnson, the next batter, was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Simonowich followed and was also hit, bringing in a run.  With the bases still loaded Bethel coach Ron Cullipher made a pitching change.

However, the third Bethel pitcher of the night fared no better.

Glover came up next and cleared the bases with one swing, sending a shot deep into the Northampton County night for a triple. After another walk to Justin Williford, Troy Futrell doubled into the gap in right center field for the two runs that ended the game.

“We played tough for the first three innings, but we just kind of gave out of gas there at the end,” said Cullipher, shaking his head.

Bethel falls to 5-4 on the year with the loss.

The night culminated with the naming of the McLawhorn scholarship winners. With only two of the four schools providing nominations, each team in the championship game received two awards in McLawhorn’s honor.

Clay Robbins and Willie Rose earned the honor for Northeast while Bethel’s Michael Miller and Daniel Feher were chosen.

In the end, one “Screamin’ Eagle” would’ve loved the sight of his other beloved Eagles screaming at winning and winning in his honor.