CHINA GROVE — A.L. Brown coach Empsy Thompson is under the weather, and the Wonders’ batting averages aren’t healthy either.
The Wonders, who have been no-hit once this year, aren’t swinging the bats much and their timing also isn’t very good. They ran into Carson on a day when the Cougars arguably played their most complete game of the season.
Carson rolled 10-2 Thursday as John Daugherty and Dylan Carpenter drove in three runs apiece, and Dillon Atwell looked more like the hurler who earned the Patrick Snider Memorial Award as Rowan County’s top pitcher for the 2012 season.
“Dillon is starting to get his mechanics down,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “That’s what he’s doing right now — getting his mechanics. But he’s also got to pitch while he’s doing it.”
Atwell (2-1) doesn’t figure to be pitching many non-conference games, but the fact that he threw six innings against the Wonders, just one day before Carson plays NPC rival South Rowan, said a lot about where Carson’s staff is now.
Cauble indicated Colton Laws will start against South tonight, and that means Daugherty is the guy he’ll turn to if Laws runs into trouble.
“To this point,” Cauble said, “Daugherty has been our best pitcher.”
Daugherty has indeed been awesome against some good teams. That means if Laws, who is just coming off the basketball court, and Atwell do get it dialed in, then Carson will have three aces.
Atwell’s most challenging inning was the first.
He jammed leadoff man C.J. Powell, but he still fisted an infield hit. Ryan Austin executed on a sacrifice bunt, J.P. Patterson worked a two-out walk, and Zeb Ritchie gave the Wonders (1-6) a 1-0 lead by blistering a groundball that found a hole.
“We had better approaches at the plate today and manufactured a run early,” Thompson said. “The plan was to run Awell’s pitch-count up. We made him work and throw a lot of pitches in that first inning, but then we let him off the hook with some one-pitch outs the next two.”
Atwell allowed three hits and two walks. He only struck out three, so Carson’s defense, especially shorstop Austin McNeill, stayed busy.
“My arm was hurting in the offseason and I really couldn’t do much,” Atwell said. “But I felt fine today. My slider was all right and our hitting and defense were really solid.”
Carson played errorless ball and was tough at the plate after the first two innings.
Brown pitcher Trace Hagler (son of Todd Hagler, the school’s longtime strength and conditioning coach) had a big-breaking curveball and a good fastball and struck out three Cougars early. He still had that 1-0 lead going to the third.
“We’ve been using a different lineup every game,” Cauble said. “We’re still looking for guys who will step up and tell me they have to be in there.”
Carson’s third turned the game. John Patella singled to start it. McNeill laid down a textbook bunt. When K.J. Pressley walked, the Cougars had the bases full with none out.
They got three runs out of it on Carpenter’s sac fly, a run-scoring wild pitch and Daugherty’s RBI single.
Carson followed up with a five-run fourth that knocked out Hagler.
“Trace has a chance to be one of the best pitchers around,” Thompson said. “He has good stuff, but he’s still learning to repeat his delivery consistently. He walked a couple, and then that big inning snowballed on us.”
Walks to Kaison Denton and Patella triggered the inning. Pressley doubled to score one. Carpenter’s two-run single, Heath Mitchem’s RBI single, and Laws’ sac fly followed.
Daugherty’s two-run single in the sixth capped the scoring. Then Christian Houpe struck out three pinch-hitters in the seventh to end it.