Laurel baseball experiences big turnaround

First-year Laurel baseball coach Don Cleveland and his players should consider this season a success after the Spartans improved from four wins last year to 10 this spring.

But Cleveland said his team (10-8-1) could have easily chalked up a few more wins.

“There were two or three games we should have won,” Cleveland said. “And there we two or three (potential makeup) games we didn’t play we should have won.”

Laurel’s two best starting pitchers — sophomore right-hander Tyler Carmen and senior right-hander Tre Fortson — were at the center of the team’s success.

“My two aces carried my team,” Cleveland explained. “If we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t have won a game this year.”

No area of the team showed more progress than the Spartans’ fielding, exemplified best by speedy center fielder Lorenzo Young.

“Throughout the season, the defense has gotten better,” Fortson said. “We worked hard getting reps in the field.”

The offense had its moments as well. Young, Jerome Gillis, Fortson, Carmen and Tiamiem Sauage spurred a lineup that batted over .300.

All three phases of the game worked well in Laurel’s 19-1 victory over Suitland in Class 4A South Region first-round game May 10.

Fortson did just fine on the mound and received significant help from his teammates.

He two-hit the Rams and struck out a season-high nine batters in a game shortened to five innings because of the 10-run slaughter rule.

The game was moved to Laurel because of poor field conditions at Suitland.

“He pitched with confidence,” Cleveland said. “It’s something he usually doesn’t do. He is usually looking for reasons why he isn’t doing well. He was focusing on what he was supposed to be doing correctly.”

Laurel has owned Suitland this season, beating the Rams for the third time.

The Spartans’ best all-around performance in the series came in the playoff game, considering they did not make an error in the field and pounded Suitland pitchers Steven Williams and Rashid Nero for 10 hits.

Sauage drove in four runs on as many hits, including a two-run homer over the left-field fence in the fourth inning and run-scoring double in the third.

Jarvis McClam (2-for-5, RBI) and Fortson (scored three runs) also contributed offensively.

Laurel sent 12 batters to the plate in the second inning and scored eight runs.

Suitland coach Michael Burroughs, whose team committed six errors, yanked his starter during the uprising after he walked three batters, hit another and gave up a single.

His replacement, Nero, didn’t fare much better, balking in a run, walking two and yielding a single.

Sauage had a two-run single in the inning and Lorenzo Young contributed an RBI single.

“It looked like they got the life sucked out of them in the second inning,” said Cleveland, whose team also beat Suitland, 22-13, and 13-9. “They walked a few guys and we took advantage of it. We were patient, got the bases loaded a couple of times and started to hit the ball.”

The Spartans scored five more runs in the third to put the game out of reach.

Laurel’s season ended three days later with a 4-2 loss to host Flowers in a quarterfinal.

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