Warriors outlast Vikings

Published 6:48 pm Wednesday, March 12, 2014

MERRY HILL – They’re still formidable.

Lawrence Academy may not dominate teams as they’d done en route to six straight independent school state baseball championships, but no one’s taking the 2014 Warriors for granted.

Just ask Halifax Academy.

The visiting Vikings took an early lead and held it for four-and-a-half innings before the Warriors exploded with an eight-run rally in the bottom of the fifth inning and made it a season sweep over the Vikes with a 10-8 victory in a game shortened due to darkness.

But you have to feel Lawrence would’ve put the lights out on Halifax even if they’d started the game at noon.

Tyler Baker went two-for-two, scored, and drove in a run in the effort. Hunter Wynns picked up the pinch-hit game-winning hit while Tyler Jones and Nicholas Holton also drove in runs.

Baker got the win on the mound in two innings of relief of starter Drew Williams. Baker did give up four late runs in the top of the sixth. Williams went four innings and gave up four runs on seven hits while walking a pair.  He also hit one batter.

The home-opening victory was Lawrence’s third win in a row and came just one day after they beat the Epiphany School in New Bern, 12-0.

Earlier the Warriors topped Halifax in Roanoke Rapids, 9-8.

“It’s a different team, you know,” said veteran Lawrence coach Robert Kravitz. “We’re not used to being down then having to battle back, but this is twice we’ve had to come back and beat this team; but that’s what championship teams do, and that’s what we’re trying to get back to.”

Williams overcame a shaky start to begin the game, surrendering four runs on five hits – four of them back-to-back – and being hurt by an early fielding error. The Warriors were staring up from a 4-0 hole after just a half-inning of baseball.

Lawrence got one run back in the bottom of the first when Jones reached on a fielder’s choice. Nick Holton followed and drilled a shot to dead-away center field that scored Jones from first base to make the score 4-1.

Despite moments when he looked sharp and other times when he looked otherwise, Williams didn’t give up any more runs during his time on the hill.  Halifax left the bases loaded in the top of the third inning after a base-on-balls and back-to-back base hits, however the Warriors killed the threat.

Lawrence got another run in the bottom of the fourth when Zach Eubanks drew a walk, he was subbed for pinch-runner Trey Styons who then stole second and came home when Conley Raines’ infield dribbler was thrown away for a two-base error.

Williams led off the bottom of the fifth with a single to right field.  Baker followed with a liner to almost the same spot as Williams motored around to score and make it 4-3.  Jones was the next batter and he ripped a liner down the left field line past the third baseman scoring Baker to tie the game and taking second on the throw. Jones later moved to third on an errant pickoff attempt. After Nick Holton walked and stole second putting both runners in scoring position, Eubanks reached on a Halifax error when the ball was thrown away. Jones and Holton were running on the play and both scored for Lawrence’s first lead, 6-4.

After Eubanks scored on a wild pitch for a three-run cushion, Kravitz pinch-hit Wynns and the player re-paid his coach’s confidence with a rope to right field that scored Nate Holton and Conley Raines.  Lawrence got their eighth and final run of the inning on a passed ball for a 10-4 lead.

With the early March sun sinking fast in the western sky Lawrence got a quick out to start the sixth inning. However, the Warrior defense then got stone-hands and committed a couple of errors, allowing a Viking base-runner to score to make it a 10-5 game.  After another error put men on base, Halifax’s Andrew Bryant – who was 2-for-2 – drove in a pair. Landon Poole got the other run in for the Vikes on a sacrifice fly and suddenly Lawrence was on the defensive.  However, an unassisted grounder to first base ended the inning, and the game, and sent the Warriors to a 3-1 record.

“That’s twice they’ve done it to me,” said Halifax coach Robert ‘Rabbit’ Long with a grin. “We fought them to the end but we just kind of collapsed there in the middle of the ball game, those little small errors killed us.”

“We’ve got plenty of pitching,” said Kravitz. “We just don’t have the dominator we’ve had in the past, but we have enough of it to be competitive.”

Lawrence travels to rival, Ridgecroft, today (Thursday) for a 4 p.m. game before closing the four-game week at Wilson’ Fleming Stadium against Greenfield School on Friday.