Prep Baseball: Big crowd sees South top rival Carson
By Mike London
LANDIS ó Mound opponents don’t often converse by cellphone on the afternoon of a game, but the South Rowan-Carson baseball rivalry is pretty unique.
South’s Michael Morgan and Carson’s Randy Shepherd aren’t just casual acquaintances ó they’re buddies ó and one of the right-handers had to lose on Friday night.
Morgan’s Raiders won 7-2 and moved into a tie for second in the NPC with Mooresville.”As soon as I heard Randy was pitching, I knew he was going to pitch his tail off,” Morgan said. “Randy’s young, he’s good, and he’s just starting to figure everything out. When I talked to him on the phone, I could tell how excited he was, and I knew how excited I was that Coach gave me the call to pitch in this game.”
South and Carson are so close together, this is always going to be a hot rivalry. For this year and next, while some former South athletes are enrolled at Carson, it’s going to be crazily intense.
When Morgan walked out to the mound, he saw a crowd unlike anything he’d seen for a high school baseball game.
South coach Linn Williams said it was the biggest in years. People sitting everywhere. People standing everywhere. People searching for spaces in packed parking lots.
“My heart just started pumping,” Morgan said. “The Carson guys I know, I’m real good friends with and a lot of ’em played here. They’re the big rival and right down the road. I just told myself, ‘Hey, this is what it’s all about.’ ”
Shepherd had to be thinking exactly the same thing. He was working on three days rest, but he looked awesome early. Morgan allowed herds of baserunners, but he kept escaping trouble. It was still 0-0 after three innings.
“Both pitchers were throwing well enough to win,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said.
“We didn’t capitalize on some chances early, and I thought it would just come down to whichever pitcher tired first.”
South (15-4, 9-4) broke through in the fourth. Caleb Shore’s single and two walks filled the bases, and Jordan Lowder smacked a two-out liner that struck Shepherd on the right wrist. The ball was hit so hard that two runs scored as it steamed into left field.
“He was the same old Randy and was throwing the ball great,” Lowder said. “Randy throws a lot of breaking balls, but he’ll sneak the fastball by you. He got two strikes on me and then tried to get me with a curveball. But he got it up a little, and I put a good swing on it.”J.D. Bare, the No. 9 hitter, followed with a double to right, and South led 3-0.
Cauble called a brief team meeting before the top of the fifth, and his team responded.
Jeremy Mullis singled, and Zack Wright whistled a double. Then Morgan missed his spot to Shepherd, and Carson’s RBI leader blistered a two-run double down the third-base line to get his team back in the game.
But things came unglued defensively for Carson (8-10, 6-7) in the bottom of the inning ó errors of commission and omission, plus tough plays that weren’t made. The extra outs let South ice the game with a five-run outburst.
Shore, who was third in the high jump in the county meet, put down a great bunt to key the inning. Everyone was safe when no one covered first. Then the Raiders got another break when a ball Morgan hit off his leg rolled toward third base and was ruled a fair ball. He reached, and the ball was thrown into right field.
“We didn’t do a good job early, hitting a lot of balls in the air,” Williams said. “But that one inning, we were finaly able to put some balls on the ground. That let us use our legs and it put the pressure on them.”Morgan did the rest, with seventh-inning relief help from Shore.
Physical problems caused Morgan (5-0) to miss basketball, but it was a blessing in disguise. He used the time off to get stronger and to work out mechanical issues with pitching coach Thad Chrismon.
He’s been beating everyone this season ó even his pals.
“I wasn’t at full strength and didn’t have my best stuff, but I could still throw,” Shepherd said. “Michael was good, but it just kind of makes me sick to lose this game.”
nContact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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