Prep baseball: Carson 5, Salisbury 0
By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — Carson baseball coach Chris Cauble announced he’d be pitching “Johnny Wholestaff” in Saturday afternoon’s makeup game against Salisbury.
“Johnny Wholestaff” is coaching shorthand for “We don’t have a regular starter available for this non-conference game, and a lot of pitchers are going to be used.”
As it turned out, “Johnny Wholestaff” was awesome. Carson beat the Hornets 5-0.
Ethan Free, who’s been struggling to recapture the form he showed in 2010 when he was 5-1 with a 1.93 ERA, was the key to Carson’s effort.
Cauble expected two innings from Free, but when the Cougars turned a pair of 6-4-3 double plays early, it kept his pitch count low enough for him to make it through four.
“I finally threw good,” said a relieved Free, who improved his record to 2-3. “I’ve been working on my mechanics, and I didn’t overdo it today. I got groundballs, and the defense made some good plays.”
An effective Free may be the key to Carson’s season, and Cauble is well aware of that.
“We’ve just tried to go back to the basics with him,” Cauble said. “He’s still not all the way there yet, but he made some baby strides today.”
Mitch Galloway turned in two solid innings in relief of Free, and third baseman Josh Martin took the hill in the seventh and finished the shutout.
It was only the third seven-inning shutout Carson’s had in the history of the program.
Galloway and Weston Snow teamed for the most recent blanking — an 8-0 victory against North Iredell in 2009. Randy Shepherd tossed a two-hit gem against West Rowan in 2008 for the other one.
Salisbury (2-3), coming off a near upset of East Rowan on Friday that would’ve shocked the world, got first-inning singles from Brian Bauk and Nolan Meyerhoeffer, but cleanup man Kyle Wolfe whacked one to shortstop Gunnar Hogan, and he started a twin killing.
“We were ready to play early,” Cauble said. “That was the big thing. We’ve been through a lot already. Today, we just relaxed and played.”
Carson, 5-4 and above the .500 mark for the first time this season after three wins in three days, scored three times in its half of the first.
Bauk, Salisbury’s starting pitcher, walked two and hit a batter to hand Carson three baserunners, and Martin delivered a two-out hit. He doubled between right fielder Meyerhoeffer and the line, and when Salisbury didn’t communicate on the relay to the infield, the hit cleared the bases.
“Bauk was behind in the count, so I was taking my hacks,” Martin said. “He wanted to come in, but he missed just enough. The ball came back across the plate a little bit, and I hit it pretty good.”
Sam Williams’ solid double triggered a two-run second for the Cougars. Dylan Carpenter and Kyle Bridges put balls in play to plate the runs.
That ended the scoring.
“We walked guys in the first inning, and that was the tone-setter,” Salisbury coach Scott Maddox said. “If Carson hadn’t gotten those early runs, we might have been out here until midnight.”
Bauk had two of Salisbury’s six hits and pitched well after that disastrous first inning.
It’s likely the nine-inning loss to East took something out of the Hornets, but Maddox wasn’t interested in excuses.
“Carson also played yesterday, but they came out and did what they needed to do,” he said. “As far as how we played, Mama told me if I don’t have something nice to say, it’s better not to say anything at all.”
The Hornets conducted a marathon postgame team meeting in right field. They’ll return to action against West Rowan on Wednesday.
Carson jumps back into NPC action Monday at South Rowan. Gavin Peeler could be available to pitch for the Cougars, Martin is throwing well, and Free may have relocated his groove on Saturday.
“Free cleared his head,” Martin said. “He relaxed and really pitched great today.”
NOTES: Salisbury wasn’t able to reschedule rainouts with Statesville and South Rowan. … Bauk has three straight multi-hit games. … The Hornets haven’t homered yet. … Hogan, a Catawba signee, hit one of the hardest balls of the day, a booming double to center in the fifth.