CARY, N.C. – After notching only three hits in their first two games at the National High School Invitational, Christian Brothers High found another gear on Friday afternoon and used it to take down Florida Christian 9-2 in consolation action.
Finding themselves down early in the matchup, Christian Brothers (Memphis, Tenn.) appeared to step up its game after seeing its head coach, Buster Kelso, ejected after arguing a balk call early on and later carrying the conversation into the dugout.
“He called a balk that wasn’t a balk and we had a disagreement,” Kelso said. “The ejection was [out of nowhere]. I said something from the dugout. I said, ‘Make sure he comes to a halt, Mr. Ump,’ and he just ejected me for no reason.”
The Purple Wave’s assistant coach, Joey Harris, later explained that originally Kelso was restricted to the dugout because of the balk argument and when the disagreement escalated, Kelso was asked to leave the game. It was then that his team took charge and began their run of nine unanswered runs.
“It’s been a tough week to be honest with you,” Harris said. “We came in feeling pretty good about the way we’ve been playing and we’ve been hitting the cover off the ball last week and even the week before when our season started.
‘Then we played two games here and only had three hits in two games. I think the kids were putting a lot of pressure on themselves…[Then] after what had happened earlier in the game, the kids responded to that very well and came out charged and ready to play. We had 10 hits today and nine runs so that’s a pretty productive day.”
The top of Christian Brothers’ order was able to make some noise in Friday’s game, with the top five notching eight hits and recording all but one of the RBIs in the matchup. Murray State commit Tyler Lawrence led the charge for the Purple Wave, going 3-for-3, including a triple to the gap in left-center field, with a run scored and an RBI.
“Between Tyler Lawrence and Chris Carrier, Michael Halley and John Wesley Ray, those four right there, the rest of the team feeds off of them,” Harris said. “When those guys are hitting, everybody’s going to hit.”
A key moment for the winning side came in the fifth inning with Florida Christian (Miami) down by one run. With runners on second and third, Carrier dropped down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt that brought in not one, but two runs and extended the Purple Wave lead.
“That’s a design play that we have,” Harris said. “That’s baseball. It’s just the way it is. I know we kind of get a lot of frowns on that but it’s a play that we have and we execute it, we practice it all the time in practice and when the situation’s right – that was a point in the game where if we got a couple of runs right there, that was a big turning point in the game and we were able to execute that play and get those two runs across.”
Christian Brothers is a team that prides itself on aggressive baserunning. Finally putting some runners on the basepaths, they were able to utilize the strengths of their players. On a routine groundout to third, Halley showed his running prowess, going from first to third without batting an eye.
“We’ve got six of our guys in our lineup who have the green light to do whatever they want to do,” Harris said. “When Mike Halley and Tyler Lawrence, when they’re on base, we are very productive. And the last two days, those guys haven’t been on base. And Chris Carrier’s the same way – when those guys get on base, we can do a lot of things. When they’re not on base, we don’t have a chance to do that.
“Mike Halley is probably one of the best baserunners I’ve seen in a long time. He’s just got great instincts. He was the one that ran from first to third on the groundout to third base. But he was stealing on the pitch because he had the green light, and when he gets on, on a walk or a single or anything like that, you might as well just give him a double or a triple because he’s going to take the bag on you. He’s good. He’s got great instincts for baseball.”
Not to be lost in the shuffle is the performance of Christian Brothers’ starting pitcher Daniel Shaw. The lefty completed all seven innings and allowed just two runs (one earned) on five hits with four walks and one strikeout. After wavering early, he took control of the game in the latter innings.
“He really came out and struggled a little bit at the beginning but he finally just kind of calmed down and this is probably the biggest stage that he’s been on as a pitcher,” Harris said. “He’s just a junior. He came out and he pounded the zone and the defense behind him made plays. He did a fantastic job and pitched a complete game. So Daniel Shaw gets a lot of the credit for us being able to hit the ball today.”