Carson gets revenge, edges West Rowan, 1-0
MOUNT ULLA — There were no walks, there were no earned runs, and the hardest hit ball all night was a harmless foul off the bat of Carson sluger Bryson Prugh.
To say that pitching dominated in Friday’s SPC baseball game in Mount Ulla understates things, but Carson was so desperate to win that a 1-0 squeaker over West Rowan and right-hander Michael Ball felt like 10-0 or maybe 99-0.
“Early or not, for us to get to where we want to be this season, this was a must-win,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “Not to put any extra pressure on anybody, but must-win is exactly what we talked about.”
Carson managed to split with West, rebounding from Thursday’s 4-3 loss in China Grove behind six brilliant innings by Colton Laws and a door-closing save by Dillon Atwell.
Carson has a unique accumlation of talent and was ranked in the top 10 in 3A in preseason for a reason. On the Carson roster are two-way beast and reigning county player of the Year John Daugherty and two-time county pitcher of the year Atwell. Then there’s Laws, who is 6-foot-7, has signed with East Carolina and would have to be considered the ace of the staff when his arm is right.
It’s scary to think all three are on the same team — Carson legitimately has three No. 1 starters.
And yet, Carson entered Friday’s activity 2-3 in the SPC, still smarting from a sweep by nemesis East Rowan and stuck in seventh place in a nine-team league. So, yeah, this was a must-win.
“There’s still time to turn things around,” Laws said. “We’re hoping this will be the start.”
Laws, who is a standout basketball player, throws when he can during hoops season, but it’s unfair to expect him to be perfect in mid-March.
“It’s always a weird transition from basketball,” Laws said. “It’s not like I’m 100 percent yet, but I’m starting to feel closer to it. I could throw every pitch for strikes tonight, and that’s a good feeling.”
It would be hard to convince West’s hitters that Laws (1-1) isn’t at his peak. In his six innings, he faced only 21 batters. He allowed three singles, two of them with two men out. He struck out seven, including the side in the fifth.
Laws was just as good in the sixth when he got three straight groundouts. Laws had thrown only 71 pitches at that point, but there were two reasons that Cauble called on Atwell to finish.
“Colton hasn’t thrown that much and we don’t want him throwing a lot of pitches,” Cauble said. “We remember last year when he wasn’t able to pitch at the end of the year. The other thing was to get Atwell right back in there. A pitcher has to have a short memory. They both pitched great, so it was a win-win.”
Atwell was charged with four runs in the first inning against West on Thursday, but he rebounded. He allowed a two-out infield hit to Noah Teeter, but he got a groundball for the final out.
“I had a rough outing Thursday, but when that happens you want to get back out there as soon as you can,” Atwell said. “I wasn’t going to mess things up after the way Colton had pitched.”
Carson catcher Bryson Prugh said both hurlers were on.
“Colton was unbelievable,” Prugh said. “Not just because he threw a lot of strikes but because he could get them to chase something whenever he wanted to. Then Atwell comes in, and his slider was moving. It was as good as it’s been,”
Carson needed all the pitching it could find because Ball, who suffered his first loss of the season after three victories, was as good as you can be in defeat. He went the distance on 94 pitches, held the Cougars to four hits and struck out nine.
“Ball was great,” West coach Chad Parker said. “Laws threw well also, but I thought we could’ve done a better job against him than what we did.”
Besides piling up strikeouts, Ball got nine outs on groundballs.
“It was one of the best performances I’ve had and this was the best Omar (Bautista) and I have ever pitched in back-to-back starts,” Ball said. “We fought hard, and it just came down to one play.”
The only run scored in the top of the first. Michael Morrison singled and Daugherty singled him to second with one out. When Prugh rapped a groundball to Bautista at shortstop, the Falcons had a chance to turn two and end the inning, but second baseman Teeter’s throw to first sailed wide, and Morrison scored.
It was a tough throw for Teeter because Daugherty, who is taller than average and faster than average, got on him quickly and had to affect his vision. But it was a run on the scoreboard for the Cougars, and Laws and Atwell, with help from a flawless defense, made that lone, early run solid gold.
“The coaches have been preaching to put it in play and not strike out,” Prugh said. “It was just a groundball, but we’ll take it.It helped win the game.”
West entered the game in first place but exited (5-3, 4-2) in third behind co-leaders South Rowan and East Rowan. Carson (5-3, 3-3) got back in the chase and will play at A.L. Brown at noon today.
“We’ll go down there and try to find our offense,” Cauble said.
Cauble said the South-Carson game will be moved up to Monday because of an ugly weather forecast for Tuesday.