Raiders get Rowdy in romp of Carson
CHINA GROVE — South Rowan often wears funky camouflage jerseys, and maybe that explains how the Raiders continue to sneak up on people.
“Hopefully, we’ll jump out of the woods at the end of this season and say, ‘Here we are!’,” South coach Thad Chrismon joked.
Still unbeaten on the road, South is no joke. South continues to surprise. The Raiders won at Carson 12-4 on Monday to move into first place alone in the South Piedmont Conference.
The two most frequently asked questions this season have been: “What does South have?” and “How is South doing it? Carson, East Rowan and West Rowan have more famous players and more experienced pitchers, but South (9-2, 7-2) is winning often.
“They pretty much kicked our butts,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “We haven’t been beaten like that many times since I’ve been here.”
John Patella and Brandon Sloop had two hits each for Carson.
South got two hits each from Chase Labbe, Matt Honeycutt, Eric Goldston and Tyler Fuller and got at least one hit from every spot in the lineup.
“A lot of quality approaches, a lot of quality swings and a lot of quality at-bats,” Chrismon said. “We hit the pitches that we wanted to hit, and guys kept fighting even when they had two strikes.”
South played Cox Mill Thursday and Friday last week, so its top two starters weren’t available.
It didn’t matter. Sophomore lefty Blake Johnson (3-0) turned in a complete game. He only struck out one, but he also only walked one.
Johnson had pitched well against North Rowan and Salisbury in non-league outings, but this was a different level of pressure. He handled it with poise and a stream of strikes.
“There was a little bit of nerves at the start,” Johnson said. “But our offense was great and our defense was great. We got that early lead and all I had to do was keep it low and throw strikes.”
South got a run in the first, and a five-run second inning against Carson starter John Daugherty stunned a crowd that watched in a state of frozen disbelief.
Eric Stowe’s single started it. Labbe’s single capped the big inning.
Down 6-0, Carson strung five hits together in the bottom of the second. Austin McNeill, Sloop and Michael Morrison knocked in runs and cut South’s lead to 6-3.
“Carson wasn’t going to go away quietly,” Chrismon said. “They had some momentum then, but we came right back and answered with another five-run inning. That answer was a key to this game.”
Goldston, who reached base four straight times out of the No. 9 spot, got a really big hit, a double that made it 7-3. Fuller’s single made it 8-3, and Labbe’s booming, two-run double to left-center after reliever Dillon Atwell had two strikes on him, made it 10-3 and was a backbreaker for the Cougars.
“We work on hitting on those situations a lot,” Labbe said. “I was just trying to put it in play and I got a fastball inside that I was able to drive. Our whole offense was pretty incredible tonight.”
Atwell pitched well in long relief for the Cougars (no earned runs), and Dylan Snider threw a sharp seventh.
Daugherty’s concentration was affected some by two early balk calls, but it was mostly a case of South getting key hits and Carson (6-4, 3-4) kicking it around and hitting a lot of line drives right at people.
“Carson has a really strong team, and there’s no doubt we’ve had to fight for every game that we’ve won in this league,” Fuller said. “But we’re a band of brothers, and we don’t mind fighting. And that kid we put on the mound tonight — that’s just a very solid kid. He’s going to be a force.”
“Johnson did a great job, but we only struck out once and we barreled up ball after ball,” Cauble said. “You wouldn’t take many odds on us hitting the ball as well as we did and scoring as few runs as we did. After most of our games, we’ve had to talk about hitting, but not tonight. That’s as well as we’ve swung it all year, but baseball can be a funny game. Give South a lot of credit, and now we’ve got to get back to work and regroup.”
Putting Colton Laws on the mound is a good way to regroup. He’ll pitch against South Friday in the rematch.
NOTES: South’s best defense came in the fifth when Fuller caught Laws’ wicked liner to right and turned it into a double play.