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Prep Baseball: Carson misses out on playoffs

By David Shaw
Salisbury PostSTATESVILLE ó When Carson’s baseball team boarded its bus after beating West Iredell 7-4 on Monday, it felt pretty good about securing one of the NPC’s six playoff berths.Ninety minutes later, the Cougars’ season was over.
“It’s very disappointing,” coach Chris Cauble said after Carson was nipped at the wire by Lake Norman for the league’s final postseason spot. “We had it in our hands from the West Rowan game until the end of the year. Really, there’s no one to blame but ourselves.”
On paper, Carson (10-13, 8-10) finished in a three-way tie for sixth place in the standings with Lake Norman and North Iredell. But because of Lake Norman’s 3-1 head-to-head record against the Cougars and North ó Carson split four games with Lake Norman and NI ó the Wildcats received the nod.
“We knew we had to come in here and get the job done,” shortstop Gunnar Hogan said after scoring three runs and reaching base four times against West Iredell (8-15, 5-13). “That’s what we did.”
Carson won its last two conference games but hurt its chances by dropping its five previous NPC games.
In the end, the Cougars were denied at least a play-in game by a couple of manic-Monday upsets: North Iredell rallied past South Rowan and Lake Norman outscored Northwest Cabarrus.”We did what we had to do,” Cauble said. “But some of the other seeds didn’t do what they were supposed to do. I was afraid of this.”
Carson junior Randy Shepherd (6-4) did his part to keep Carson’s pilot light flickering. The tall right-hander came within one out of pitching his second shutout of the season. He began the last of the seventh inning nursing a 7-0 lead before the Warriors ignited for four runs on four hits in their final at-bat.
“I scared myself at the end,” Shepherd said after collecting nine strikeouts and snapping a personal three-game losing streak. “I was trying to overthrow in that last inning. All they had to do was put the bat on the ball and it went.”
Shepherd, who allowed only four hits over the first six innings, also provided some offensive mojo.
He went 3-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt and two RBIs. Shepherd, Jeremy Mullis and Scott Ashby drove in first-inning runs as Carson built a 3-0 lead against West Iredell’s Michael Krueger. Freshman catcher Joe Basinger deposited reliever Will Feimster’s second pitch over the center-field fence to make it 4-0 in the second.”He threw me a fastball about belt-high,” Basinger said. “Cauble told me to take my hand to it. I just took off out of the batter’s box, looked up to find it and started jogging the bases hard.”
Carson’s fifth run crossed on a third-inning error. Then, in the top of the seventh, Hogan ó who batted a team-best .375 as a freshman ó tripled home a run and Shepherd followed with an RBI double to left-center.
“We came out relaxed,” Shepherd said. “We never even thought this would be our last game. We were just thinking about playing a good game and going on.”
Added Basinger: “When we got off that bus today, we were just here to win. Nothing but win.”
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Contact David Shaw at dshaw@salisburypost.com.

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