Prep Baseball: Carson pounds West in NPC first-place showdown
CHINA GROVE — Carson’s baseball team has won nine of its last 10 meetings with West Rowan, so the winner of Friday’s game wasn’t a surprise.
That the Cougars took the much-hyped NPC matchup 10-0 in five innings was a shock, however. No one expected Carson to 10-run-rule a team that entered the cold evening with a 9-1 record and a three-game winning streak.
Carson has never won the NPC regular season and it still has never beaten East Rowan, but it now stands alone in first place.
“Carson played well and we didn’t have a good mindset and didn’t do much good tonight,” West coach Chad Parker said. “Tip your cap to them, but for us, it’s time to get back to work.”
All nine Carson starters scored or drove in a run, and Connor Bridges came off the bench to slash the opposite-field, bases-clearing double in the fourth inning that led to the 10-run rule.
“Connor is a good person, and that was good to see,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “He’s had a tough start. Maybe that’s the hit that gets him going.”
The Falcons ran into a buzz-saw. On this night, at least, Carson (10-2, 4-1) may have been a problem for anyone in 3A. The Cougars scored in every inning, stole three bases, played sharp defense, and got superb pitching from horse Colton Laws.
“This game was a whole lot like the South Rowan game,” Cauble said. “We were aggressive and we jumped on them very early. In those two games, we played the kind of baseball I believe this team can play.”
West’s most serious sins were with the gloves. West turned two double plays, but the Falcons (3-2 NPC) still made five errors while recording 12 outs. The Cougars made every one of those errors hurt.
West came out swinging against Laws, who had fanned 12 Falcons in one of his 2012 starts. Leadoff man Harrison Baucom ripped at his first pitch but popped it up.
“They were looking first-pitch fastball because that’s what Colton usually does and they were being aggressive,” Carson catcher Bryson Prugh said. “But Colton was still blowing some fastballs by them, and then he started mixing it up.”
West starter Michael Ball (2-1) relies on a very good curveball and was one pitch away from holding Carson scoreless in the first, but a curveball hung to Devon Peacock, and Peacock’s line single scored Dylan Carpenter to make it 1-0.
John Daugherty’s RBI double to deep right scored pinch-runner Matt Jones, and Heath Mitchem’s RBI single staked Laws to a quick 3-0 lead.
“That made it easy to relax,” Laws said. “We had the offense and the defense working tonight, and my job was just to throw strikes. I was mixing up various pitches and getting a lot of groundballs, and we were making all the plays.”
Laws (3-1) would finish with a two-hitter — singles by Justin Evans and Jamey Spurlin — and four strikeouts. A steal by courtesy runner Ben Gragg set up an RBI single by K.J. Pressley, as Carson pushed its advantage to 4-0 in the second inning.
When Greg Tonnesen led off the third against Ball with a loud double, Ball’s night was over, and Parker had to turn to Nick Collins for relief.
“We went to the plate against Ball with great approaches,” Cauble said. “This was a big game for us, and our guys responded by being very focused. Even our bench was into this one, right from the start.”
Collins almost escaped a jam in the third, but again the Cougars got the clutch, two-out hit. This time it was Prugh. He rifled a two-run single to left to stretch the lead to 6-0.
“I’ve known Nick a long time and was looking for a high fastball,” Prugh said. “I got one.”
Bridges got his three-run double in the fourth to make it 9-0, and Mitchem knocked him in with run No. 10.
West had two baserunners in the fifth against Laws for the first time, but second baseman John Patella fielded a routine bouncer to end the game.
“Colton is back in form,” Cauble said. “He looked good.”
A 6-foot-6 all-county and all-district basketball player, Laws is still transitioning from the hardwood to the diamond, but he can’t throw much better.
“I’m think I’m about 90 percent back now,” he said.
If he finds that other 10 percent, look out.