Bombs Away!

Published 8:47 am Tuesday, May 14, 2013

MERRY HILL – It was one of those ‘scrapbook’ days for Ryan Lilley.

No, make that Facebook. You might want to post this.

The Jamesville senior slammed the first home run of his high school baseball career as Lawrence Academy started their run to a sixth independent schools state championship with an 8-1 win over Wayne Christian School here on Saturday.

“I was just running it out because I didn’t want to make the second out,” a shy, but grinning Lilley said after the game. “I got to second base and I didn’t know it was over the fence until I saw the umpire give the (home run) sign.”

The over-the-wall tater was part of a four runs-batted-in day for Lilley who also scored twice and capped off the game with a sixth inning relief pitching appearance where he gave up no runs on two hits with no walks and a strikeout.

Yes, Roy Hobbs, who could do it all on the diamond in that movie, ‘The Natural’, lives, at least on this day.

Lilley led the Warriors going three-for-four and driving in four runs. Fellow senior Patrick Castelloe was one for two and his hit was Lawrence’s first home run of the game, a two-run shot out over straightaway center field. Dallas Belch and Cody Elliott also drove in runs for Lawrence.

All that offensive firepower helped back up a one-run four-hit pitching performance by Jesse White, who walked just two batters while striking out six.

“I tried to just give it my best,” said White, post-game. “This could have been our last game if we’d lost it.”

“My fastball was my best pitch today,” he added. “I couldn’t quite get my curve ball working  to stay out front with it and my change-up helped me out a couple of times, too.”

The Warriors led 3-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning and one could sense a certain restlessness among the Lawrence fans that’d turned out for the weekend affair.

“You let teams like that hang around, especially when you’re getting everybody’s best, then you never know what can happen,” said Warrior coach Robert Kravitz.

“Baseball’s a funny game,” he added.

It was Lawrence’s first game since downing Pungo for the Tarheel Independent Conference tournament championship nine days ago. The Warriors struck first in the bottom of the first.

Maybe it was an omen of the day to come for Lilley. He should have been the third out, but instead he reached first base on a dropped third strike by the Eagles catcher.  Next, he stole second and came home when Cody Ambrose ripped a double into the gap in left-center field. Ambrose didn’t have a chance to get too comfortable standing on the Keystone sack, because the next batter, Castelloe, took a two-one count offering over the fence in the deepest part of the ball park for a two-out two run home run and a 3-0 Lawrence lead after one inning of play.

After a scoreless second inning Lilley was back at it again in the bottom of the third inning, blasting a one-out double to right field. He was then sacrificed to third, but remained there when WCS got the final out.

The Eagles got their first – and what proved to be, only – run of the game in the top of the fifth thanks to a trio of hits. It was also the best moment for Lawrence’s defense. Ambrose threw out an Eagle runner at the plate trying to score from third and catcher Castelloe made it two outs by turning and firing a bullet to J.B. Williams at third base for an inning-ending double-play.

Ahead 3-1, Lawrence began to add the insurance in the bottom of the fifth when Drew Williams singled down the left field line followed by Lilley’s home run that blew it out to a 5-1 game.

Wayne Christian switched pitchers in the sixth inning but Lawrence got three more runs. J.B. Williams singled to left and went to third on Wynns’ base hit to almost the same spot.  After Zach Eubanks walked to load the bases, Belch delivered Williams with the Warriors’ sixth run on a groundout RBI. Following another out, Lilley got his third hit of the game: a line drive over the shortstop’s glove that scored Wynns and the hard-charging Eubanks from second for an 8-1 lead.

Lilley relieved White in the top of the seventh and gave up back-to-back one-out hits before the Eagles tested Ambrose’s arm in right field with a catch of a fly out for the second out and then doubling-up the runner at first base to end the game.

“We know Lawrence’s legacy, so we expected just what we saw” said Wayne coach Kurt Hinton. “There’re some good athletes on that team, and I can’t see anybody beating them.”

“We’re one step closer,” said Kravitz, “but it’s never easy.”

Lawrence will be back in Merry Hill Tuesday (today) for their second round game versus Freedom Christian Academy of Fayetteville. They had an option to move the game to Wilson’s Fleming Stadium, home of the 1A NCISAA championships, which are due to begin on Friday.

“I love playing there, the kids love playing there, we could’ve taken advantage of that situation,” said a smiling Kravitz.

Yes, but how could you deny the home fans one more chance to see some more remarkable baseball.

Something they might just post on Facebook.