Carson beats West Rowan to move to NPC final
By Mike London
LANDIS — Carson’s school-record 22nd victory and junior pitcher Dillon Atwell’s school records for wins in a season (9) and career (16) were topics worthy of discussion, but the conversation was about junior John Daugherty.
“I felt good and I threw OK,” said Atwell, after bumping his record to 9-1 with a complete game. “But John saved us.”
Daugherty is a first-year varsity player, but he’s a strong player of the year candidate.
His three-run homer beat West Rowan 4-2 in an NPC tournament semifinal and his 3-for-3 performance Thursday on a day when pitchers dominated lifted his batting average to .444 with 27 RBIs. He’s also 7-0 on the mound with an ERA so low you can’t find it.
“John’s come on and Ben Gragg has come on,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “If that hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t be where we are.”
Where Carson, top-seeded and ranked eighth in 3A is, is in tonight’s 7 p.m. championship game at South Rowan. The Cougars (22-3) will be shooting for their second straight tourney title.
Fourth-seeded West (17-8) is having its best season since 2006 (the last year Cauble coached the Falcons) and put up a fight. Omar Bautista (4-4), was tough for five innings, and Nick Collins pitched an overpowering sixth.
Bautista had a 2-1 lead in the fifth when he hit K.J. Pressley with a pitch and allowed a double to Dylan Carpenter that must have gone over the third-base bag. Daugherty was next.
“I thought the double was foul, but that’s baseball,” Bautista said. “Then I made a mistake on the homer. But give John credit. He’s a good hitter.”
It wasn’t a hanger or a fat pitch. It was away, but it was high enough that Daugherty was able to square it up, and he smashed a rocket toward South’s weight-room building.
Daugherty stroked his homer about as well as his opposite-field double in the first.
“I thought that one might be a home run too, but it’s like 4,000 feet or something to right field here,” Daugherty said.
West played outstanding defense, maybe its best all season. Third baseman Jamey Spurlin, second baseman Jeremy Simpson, center fielder Collins and left fielder Cody McNeely made great plays.
“Nick was like a Frisbee-chasing dog in center,” West coach Chad Parker said. “We helped Omar out with our defense, but we’ve got to help him more offensively. We’ve scored six runs in his last four starts.”
Atwell had his fastball and pinpoint control and should’ve had a shutout. But Spurlin’s two-out pop fly wasn’t caught in the fifth and both West runs scored. Either shortstop Austin McNeill or left fielder Carpenter could’ve caught it.
“It’s Carp’s ball, but Austin already was camped under it,” Cauble explained. “Both guys called for it, and we had a miscommunication that cost us.”
Carson didn’t blink.
“No big deal,” Daugherty said. “Everyone makes mistakes. We still had confidence.”
His three-run homer left the yard a few moments later.
“That’s how it’s been all year,” Cauble said. “No one said a word. Guys just went to work, and they got a win Dillon really deserved. He was stellar against a tough lineup.”