Prep Baseball: West Rowan 7, Carson 4
By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — Rest is normally a welcome thing for a baseball team, but on Monday night, Carson was handed a 10-day vacation it didn’t want.
Sixth-seeded West Rowan, which had to win in order to keep its season alive, rode a complete-game pitching effort from ironman Matt Miller and won 7-4 at third-seeded Carson in the first round of the NPC tournament.
“It’s a really long layoff now until our first playoff game (on May 13),” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “That really concerns me.”
Carson (15-8) entered the tournament hoping for a No. 2 playoff seed and a first-round home game. Now the Cougars will be either No. 3 or No. 4.
Hunter Teeter and Madison Osborne knocked in two runs apiece for the Falcons, who put together a six-run fourth inning for a 7-1 lead and held on.
“It would’ve been nice to have played like this all year,” smiling West coach Chad Parker said. “That’s the most complete effort we’ve had. Whatever Carson did, we didn’t let it hurt us. We just kept making good plays.”
Parker expects a complete game from Miller every time he hands him the ball, and Miller often delivers. He’d come close to beating Carson twice, going the distance but losing 6-5 and 5-4 in eight innings.
“Miller’s a quality guy,” Cauble said. “It seems like he’s thrown 5 million pitches against us, and he pitched well enough to have won all three games. He mixed it up, inside and outside. He kept us off-balance.”
Teeter’s double and Osborne’s RBI single put the Falcons (5-19) on the board in the first inning. Kyle Youngo singled and scored to tie it 1-1 in the bottom half.
Carson, playing without injured shortstop Gunnar Hogan (his MRI is now set for today), turned two early double plays to help starting pitcher Ethan Free, but West’s huge fourth inning proved decisive.
Free hit two batters to start that inning, and Patrick Hampton scored from second in an infield error. Consecutive solid hits by Chase Laing, Teeter and Taylor Garczynski were followed by a wild pitch by reliever Austin Bracewell and kept a merry-go-round on the bases spinning. Osborne capped the six-run flurry with a sac fly.
Staked to a 7-1 lead, Miller wasn’t going to let this one get away.
“Knowing it was do-or-die was the main thing,” Miller said. “That got to all of us, and that’s why we finally beat them.”
West hung on despite two doubles apiece by Carson’s Kyle Bridges and Tripp Cross and a strong relief effort by Bracewell, who quieted West in the fifth, sixth and seventh. Cross had entered the game as an injury replacement in right field for Sam Williams.
Joseph Basinger smashed a long, two-run homer in the fifth to cut West’s lead to 7-3, but a fine catch deep down the left-field line by Steven Wetmore helped Miller get though the inning.
“Just a great catch, and when guys are making plays like that, a pitcher wants to keep making good pitches,” Parker said.
Cross’ second wicked double led to a Carson run in the sixth. Youngo’ sac fly got him home, and it was 7-4. But Miller cruised through a 1-2-3 seventh. Teeter, the young shortstop, smoothly fielded a grounder and fired to Osborne at first to end the game.
“At this point, there’s not much you can say as far as inspirational speeches,” said Hampton, West’s senior center fielder. “We all knew if we couldn’t put seven innings together, this was our last time. We challenged every guy to put seven together, and we did it. Now we get seven more.”
The Falcons play in a semifinal vs. tourney host West Iredell at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
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