Lawrence pitches Spartans past Bulldogs

April 1, 2014

By Neil Pierson

After starting the season with three losses, the Skyline High School baseball team was hungry for a win, and the Spartans satisfied their appetites March 26.

Skyline got a dominating performance from starting pitcher Sam Lawrence, and Jason Santiago drove in a pair of runs at the plate as the host Spartans earned a 4-0 victory over the Garfield Bulldogs in a Class 4A KingCo Conference opener.

Skyline second baseman Diego Graterol scoops up a ground ball during the Spartans’ 4-0 win over visiting Garfield in March 26 KingCo Conference baseball action.  Photo by Chuck Blackburn

Skyline second baseman Diego Graterol scoops up a ground ball during the Spartans’ 4-0 win over visiting Garfield in March 26 KingCo Conference baseball action. Photo by Chuck Blackburn

The Spartans scored only five runs in nonconference defeats to O’Dea, Auburn Riverside and Eastside Catholic. But they managed enough support for Lawrence, a 6-foot junior lefthander, who stymied Garfield’s offense.

Lawrence limited the Bulldogs (2-2 overall, 0-1 conference) to three hits and one walk in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out six hitters, and the key may have been throwing first-pitch strikes 60 percent of the time.

“I just go out there and my only goal is to throw strikes, get ahead in the count, just do my job and hit spots,” said Lawrence, who picked up his first varsity win and has yet to allow a run in 10 2/3 innings this season.

He followed the blueprint coach Chris Tamminen and his defense laid out.

“That just goes to show you that’s what happens when you throw strikes,” Santiago said. “You get outs, quick innings … We really just enforced our pitchers to throw strikes and trust the defense.”

Lawrence worked out of two jams to earn the shutout, although he didn’t complete the game. Alex Wu, a senior, struck out Garfield’s Justin Arkills-McLain for the game’s final out.

In the first inning, a throwing error and a single put Bulldogs at first and second with no outs. Lawrence coaxed a pop fly and a groundout, then struck out Henry Freed to end the threat.

With a 4-0 lead in the sixth, Lawrence again faced trouble when Derek Billey tripled with one out. No worries – Lawrence stabbed Duncan Skerrett’s line drive to the mound, and caught Billey off third for the double play.

The Spartans had other defensive gems, too. Right fielder Jake Kargl made a diving catch to deny Ben Woerner extra bases in the second inning, and third baseman Santiago laid out for a spectacular grab of Eli Wilson’s liner in the third.

“It was a confidence boost on the mound to know that my defense has my back,” Lawrence said.

Coming into the season, the Spartans were looking to find players who could get on base ahead of Santiago, their No. 3 hitter and top run producer.

Against Garfield, senior outfielder Cole Blackburn did the job. In the first inning, he doubled to the left-field gap and scored on Santiago’s single through the middle of the diamond.

In the third, Blackburn singled with one out, stole second base, and scored on Santiago’s single to right field.

Drew Lunde singled, Kargl walked, and Garfield’s shortstop couldn’t corral a Brad Hoss pop-up in short left field, allowing Santiago and Lunde to score for a 4-0 lead.

Santiago said he’s looking forward to more games with Blackburn in the No. 2 position.

“It’s fun because he gets on, and I feel like I’m responsible for getting him in,” Santiago said. “Him and I have been batting together all of our lives, and we just feel like we’re brothers out there.”

The Spartans had six hits off Arkills-McLain and reliever David Brinkley – not exactly an offensive explosion, but enough to get the job done on a day Lawrence needed minimal help.

Santiago said he picked up on Arkills-McLain’s tendencies in warm-ups, and saw a hittable curveball.

“When I was down two strikes in my first at-bat, I was just looking for a pitch to hit … and he just hung me a curveball,” Santiago said. “He did have good command on his fastball. He kept the ball low for the most part, but other than that, I think we did a good job of picking him apart.”

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