KANNAPOLIS — When is a baseball hit over the fence not a homer?
The answer: When Carson’s K.J. Pressley is manning center field.
Pressley personally changed the ground rules at Northwest Cabarrus, reaching over the fence to rob the Trojans of what would’ve been a sure homer in the fourth inning.
Pressley’s great grab was the signature play of the Cougars’ 12-4 win over Northwest on a frigid Saturday.
“Guys wonder why we do all the fence drills we do in practice,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “Well, that’s why we do it. Nice play by K.J.”
Carson is 3-0. The Cougars also started 3-0 in 2009 and 2010, but there’s a feeling in the frosty air that they’ll do more than contend this time.
Bryson Prugh, Greg Tonnesen and Ben Gragg, who walloped a two-run homer, came off the bench against Northwest, and the deep Cougars still presented a solid starting lineup.
“They didn’t use their best arms today, but they still had quality pitching,” NWC coach Joe Hubbard said. “I also coach jayvees, so I know what Carson has. They’re not just gonna be good this year — they’re gonna be strong at least the next three.”
John Daugherty pitched four good innings for the win. Lefty Heath Mitchem walked two guys in front of a three-run homer by UNC signee Tanner Bigham in the fifth, but T.J. Brackett finished up flawlessly and earned an unusual save.
With Colton Laws and Dillon Atwell at the top of the staff, the Cougars have more arms than they’re going to have innings to pitch, and not many 3A high schools will have that problem.
Northwest, Seager-less for the first time in a decade, still has sticks, notably Bigham and Catawba signee Jordan Goodman. But the rest of the equation is a puzzle at this point.
“We’ve only had two real practices,” Hubbard said. “We’re still figuring out our pitching and our outfield.”
Five hurlers combined to walk or hit 15 Cougars, and NWC (1-2) also made four errors. You won’t beat Carson with those numbers.
Offensively, Carson got two hits each from Mitchem, Dylan Carpenter and Austin McNeill. A first-inning RBI double by Carpenter put the Cougars on top and they stayed there.
“Our hitters were a little too aggressive at times and we lost some focus in the middle innings,” Cauble said. “But for this early and this cold, we hit it pretty good.”
Carson was cruising 8-1 after Gragg’s two-run homer, but Bigham’s blast lifted NWC back into at 8-4.
The Trojans loaded the bases with none out in the sixth, but Brackett relieved and got a popup and a hard grounder that Carson third baseman Connor Bridges turned into a 5-3 DP.
“I just reacted low,” Bridges said. “Then the throw was the easy part.”
It was a colossal play because Bigham was in the on-deck circle.
Carson then iced the game with a four-run seventh that included RBI singles by Tonnesen and Bridges.
“We had that one opportunity, but the game was as lopsided as the score,” Hubbard said. “They beat us in every aspect. They pounded us.”