Lawrence Warriors fall in title series

Published 4:12 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023

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By Gene Motley

Special to the R-C News-Herald

ROCKY MOUNT – They say close-out games are always the hardest.

That rang true for Lawrence Academy here Saturday as the Warriors – needing just one win to claim another NCISAA 1A State Baseball Championship – saw Halifax Academy rally in the deciding games and snatch away the title from the Green-and-Gold.

For Lawrence (18-6), it was a bitter pill to swallow after falling in the title tilt one year ago to Grace Christian. Once again their quest to return to glory and claim their first state championship in 11 years was thwarted this time in three games: a 7-6 win on Friday, but twin losses, 15-11, and 13-8 the following day.

Friday it looked Lady Luck may have smiled on them as the Warriors came from behind to pull out a 7-6 victory at the Faith Christian School ballpark in nine innings.

LAW gave up a single run in the first inning on Braxton Hammack’s sixth home run of the year, then gave up two more in the third to trail 3-0 after two-and-a-half innings.

In the Warrior half of the third, Lawrence used a pair of walks, a base-hit and a costly Halifax error to push across a pair of runs and make it a 3-2 ballgame.

Halifax re-claimed their three-run cushion with two more runs in their half of the fifth and gained a 5-2 edge.

Lawrence rallied again thanks to Mike Lee’s base-knock that scored Mari Larry, followed by Zander Mizelle delivering Lee with a single to make it 5-4, Vikings.

After the coaches agreed to play nine innings prior to first pitch, it was scoreless for the next three innings before Halifax pushed across a run in the top of the ninth and led it 6-4.

In their half of the ninth Patrick Lundy led off with a walk before pinch-hitter Creek Johnson drove him in. Conner Ferebee then delivered another run and Mari Larry crossed the dish with the third and game-winning final run.

The Warriors got RBIs from Johnson, Lee, Ferebee and Mizelle all drove in runs, in addition to a double from freshman Larry in the seventh, LAW’s only extra base hit.

Facing elimination on Saturday, Halifax rose up with a huge 10-run second inning of Game-2.

Lawrence opened with a pair of runs on a pair of hits for a 2-0 lead before Halifax came back to tie it 2-all after one complete inning.

The Vikings sent 14 men to the plate in the second and banged out seven hits, including a Noah Hinton home run.

Halifax posted two more runs in the top of the third to lead by a dozen, 14-2. However, Conner Ferebee cracked his second home run of the year as Lawrence got a little salve for all that Viking damage with three runs on four hits in their half of the inning, but trailed 14-5.

In the fourth, Creek Johnson drove in Lundy and Ferebee smacked a run-scoring double for another RBI, making it a 14-7 ball game.

Halifax scored their 15th run in the top of the fifth, but Lawrence found new life when Mizelle slapped a solo shot as part of a four-run two-hit attack for Lawrence to get the Warriors within four.

But that was as close as they came. Braxton Hammack got the win on the mound with scoreless relief help from Dawson Stroud, who pitched the final three innings. Ferebee took the loss for LAW.

Ferebee was 3-for-4 with a round-tripper while Mike Lee and Mari Larry had two hits each. The trio accounting for seven of Lawrence’s 11 hits.

Saturday’s second game was winner-take all elimination time and the Warriors opened with back-to-back hits from Larry and Ferebee with Lee’s sacrifice RBI producing Lawrence’s first run and a 1-0 lead after a half-inning. But a pair of hits and a couple of base-on-balls produced three runs for Halifax and LAW trailed 3-1 after one complete inning of baseball.

Halifax got two more in the second and had another big inning in the third when they batted around and it produced six runs for an 11-1 lead.

Lawrence got four in the fourth on a Ferebee grand-slam that scored Noah Congleton, Carter Wells, and Larry ahead of him. That made it 11-5, Halifax.

It was 13-5, Vikings, when Lee drove in two more in the sixth to get LAW within six headed into the pivotal seventh inning. In that frame Wells drew a two-out walk and scored on Johnson’s RBI base-knock. Larry then got a hit – the Warriors’ last of the game – as a fly-out ended the contest and Lawrence’s chances of redemption.

For Lawrence, Ferebee was 2-for-3 with a home run while Mari Larry was 4-for-5 and scored three runs. Carter Hoggard absorbed the loss on the mound.

Halifax (11-9), meanwhile, had 13 runs on 13 hits with Hammack driving in five runs and Lander Peoples going 4-for-4 while Mason Burr got the win.