ARLINGTON -- Virtually every media outlet in the Metroplex reported the harrowing experience of Arlington Martin baseball player Collin Lawrence and his family's miraculous survival in their South Arlington home as a tornado hit on April 3.
Lawrence, his mother and older brother huddled in a bathroom as every other room in the house was obliterated by one of the 17 twisters in North Texas that day.
Arlington Martin (32-3) vs. Hurst L.D. Bell (21-11)
(All games played at Coppell ISD Baseball Complex)
Game 1: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Game 2: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Game 3 (if necessary): 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Collin's father, Bobby, was trying desperately to get back home from work and was on speaker phone with his family as the tornado struck. He heard a loud explosion before the line went dead.
His repeated attempts to call them back proved pointless, so white-knuckled driving ensued.
"By the time I got over to Lake Arlington Golf Course all I saw was debris flying through the air so my first thought was that the whole neighborhood was gone," Bobby Lawrence said. "All you can do at that point is ask the Lord to be with your family."
The story had a happy ending as the entire Lawrence family emerged from the rubble without a scratch.
But what happened after that?
The Lawrence home was in ruins, two cars were totaled, and while they had their lives -- it was complete chaos.
Collin Lawrence, Martin's starting catcher, found solace not only in the game but in his teammates and coaches.
"It's hard to tell how anyone would deal with a situation like that, it would shake anybody up," Martin coach Curt Culbertson said. "This kid stepped right back out there and didn't just play, but performed at a high level like nothing even happened. Looking back on it, he never even missed practice and was where he was supposed to be, on time, every day."
Lawrence played the next day. He doubled, drew two walks and caught for the Warriors in a 14-3 victory over Arlington Bowie.
"I was ready to play that day if I had to honestly," said Lawrence, a Weatherford College signee. "I was looking forward to the game. I've been playing it my whole life and it was something fun to do and get everything else off my mind."
The senior catcher is batting .314 with four homers and 25 RBIs, but is just one cog in the Warriors' juggernaut, which opens a best-of-three series against Hurst L.D. Bell tonight in the Class 5A Region I semifinals in Coppell.
Martin (32-3) finished the regular season as District 4-5A champs, the No. 1 team in the state, a top 15 team in the country by several publications and has won 10 of its last 11 games.
The lineup is stacked with five batters with at least 90 plate appearances hitting .300 or better.
The rotation has been almost untouchable with a team ERA of 1.60. Pitchers Turner Larkins (1.13 ERA), Nick Hendrix (1.16), Mike Hoffman (1.58) and Collin Day (1.63) are a combined 26-2 with 203 strikeouts.
"We've never really had a game where we felt like we didn't have a shot at winning this year," Hendrix said.
Even with all of the talent, Culbertson points to the team's closeness as a group as the primary reason for the Warriors' deepest jaunt in the playoffs since 2007.
Their unity flowed from the field in the Lawrence family's time of need. Many of the players spent evenings after practice helping with the cleanup and have expedited the rebuilding of the home.
"The team's support has been overwhelming from the very get-go," Bobby Lawrence said. "These kids pitched in and my house today looks like a brand new house going up under construction, where a lot of these houses are still in ruin. It's unreal to see a bunch of kids pitch in and help like they have, and it makes me feel great that Collin is a part of a group that's like this."
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760
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