Baseball: Carson 12, South 4
By Mike London
LANDIS — Fans arriving 15 minutes late for Monday’s NPC showdown missed the decisive action.
Carson sent 11 men to the plate in the first inning, scored seven quick runs and went on to beat South Rowan 12-4.
There were similarities to last season’s 16-2 Carson victory at South that included a 10-run first by the Cougars.
“It’s one game in a long season, and we’re not going to over-react to it,” disappointed South coach Thad Chrismon said. “Carson was just better than we were tonight — pitched it better, swung it better and played better defense. Hats off to them.”
Carson coach Chris Cauble, who has mostly watched his guys labor offensively this season, was ecstatic.
“We haven’t been hitting, but our approaches have gotten better the last three games,” he said. “If you’re going to be a good high school team, you have to put the ball in play up and down the lineup, and we finally did that. Our kids stepped up to the challenge. This is a huge win.”
Intensity heated up when there was a rugged collision at the plate in the bottom of the second between South baserunner Cory Deason and Joseph Basinger, Carson’s big catcher, but cooler heads prevailed.
Carson (6-4, 4-1 NPC) scored a dozen runs, even with its two big offensive guns — Gunnar Hogan and Basinger — going 0-for-7. Kyle Youngo and Mitch Galloway had three hits each to pace the Cougars’ 14-hit attack.
“It was just a great game for everybody,” Galloway said. “Everyone stayed in this one all the way. The intensity never let up.”
Young, a senior second baseman who waited behind all-star Julio Zubillaga for his chance to play, opened the game with a single, and Kyle Bridges bounced a single into right field to move Youngo to second. Hogan walked to load the bases, but South starter Preston Penninger — also the victim of Carson’s big first in 2010 — struck out Basinger.
Penninger was one groundball away from escaping any damage, and he got that groundball when Galloway whacked one hard to the left side. But the ball bounced high over the glove of South third baseman Jacob Dietz, clearing leather by inches, and plating Carson’s first run.
“Not the hardest hit, but putting it in play was the main thing,” Galloway said.
The rest of the inning was a nightmare for the Raiders.
Winning pitcher Josh Martin helped himself with a bloop single to center, and the Raiders threw it around some.
When Gavin Peeler singled just inches out of a lunging Dietz’s reach, it was 4-0.
“We’ve been getting such great pitching — lots of three-up, three-down innings — that their first inning got us out of our game,” Dietz said. “I have to give it to them because their hitters executed. I was playing in because they were threatening to bunt. That cut down my range, and some of their hits were just out of reach.”
When Peeler stole second, South catcher Eric Tyler’s throw sailed into center field, allowing a runner to score from third, and it was 5-0.
K.J. Pressley’s bunt single got the sixth run home. It became 7-0 — and all over but the shouting — after South shortstop Dylan Goodman couldn’t get that elusive third out on a grounder by Youngo.
Martin (2-1) strolled to the mound for the first time with a seven-run cushion, and with all the pressure off. He’s been pitching efficiently and entered the game with a 2.52 ERA, so there was little chance that South (5-3, 3-1) was going to climb all the way back.
Martin’s RBI double pushed the lead to 8-0 in the second. Youngo got another run home when he hit into a fielder’s choice in the third.
The positive for South was it didn’t roll over in five innings as it did last year against the Cougars. A solid hit by Deason keyed a two-run third for South, and Matt Miller’s RBI single and a booming opposite-field triple by Dietz got two more runs home in the fifth against a tiring Martin.
“We stuck in it,” Chrismon said. “I was proud of that.”
With Carson’s lead reduced to 9-4 and with two South runners on base, Cauble summoned Ethan Free from the bullpen. He quieted South the rest of the way.
“Martin pitched a great game,” Cauble said. “But he was up to 98 pitches, and that’s uncharted waters for him. He’s been in the 60s and 70s in his earlier games.”
Carson tacked on three more in the sixth, with Galloway’s RBI double and Scottie Hinson’s RBI single — his first varsity hit — the key blows.
Carson had a 2-4 record and was trailing 5-0 against West Rowan last Thursday. Rallying to win 6-5 against the Falcons has triggered a four-game winning streak.
“I think we just started pulling together better,” Youngo said. “We’ve been playing a lot more as a team.”
South had a rough night, but there’s a long way to go.
“The Carson game here last year was even uglier than this,” Dietz said. “It’s just one game, and we’ll work hard to get better.”