Prep Baseball: Prep Playoffs tonight
By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — Carson baseball coach Chris Cauble maintains his sense of humor as he examines an unfriendly 3A West playoff bracket.
Cauble has led his Cougars into the playoffs for the fourth time in the school’s five years of existence. That’s the good news.
The bad news? As is usually the case, Carson, which has never had a home playoff game, will be hitting the road to take on one of the heavyweights in the first round.
“It’s the Cauble Luck,” Cauble said with a chuckle.
NPC No. 3 seed Carson (15-8) opens the playoffs tonight at red-hot Mount Pleasant (17-6), which has looked like the strongest team in the Rowan-Cabarrus ranks during the past few weeks.
Coach Bryan Tyson’s Tigers swept three Rowan foes, including East, in the late-April Easter tournament at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium before winning the SPC tournament championship to climb to the league’s No. 2 seed for the playoffs.
“We had some injuries that lasted until about the middle of the year,” Tyson explained. “It’s just been the last few weeks that we’ve had everyone back in the lineup that should be in the lineup.”
It’s not like Carson (15-8) can’t beat the talented Tigers in a one-game scenario, but it’s still a tall order.
“We’re definitely underdogs, maybe heavy underdogs,” Cauble said. “But we also feel like if we play good defense and pitch it well we’ll have a chance to win.”
Cauble plans to send bulldog Josh Martin (4-2, 2.76 ERA) to the mound. Martin will be able to pitch because Catawba signee Gunnar Hogan, the No. 3 hitter, is back to play shortstop.
Hogan, who missed four games with a partially torn muscle near his elbow, was cleared to play by doctors, and he passed Cauble’s own exam at Thursday’s practice.
“Gunnar made the throw across the diamond and he made the off-balance throw charging in,” Cauble said. “He’s ready. Those four or five days when he couldn’t swing made him hungry.”
The standout for Carson has been catcher Joseph Basinger (five homers, 28 RBIs, .390). The unsung hero has been second baseman Kyle Youngo (.328, 27 runs, great defense). The wild card in tonight’s playoff game could be outfielder Tripp Cross, who emerged from a slump to crush two doubles in Cason’s most recent outing, which was way back on May 2.
“It’s what have-you-done-lately time now,” Cauble said. “He’ll be in there.”
Tyson and Cauble have squared off often before, notably when they were SPC rivals a decade ago. Cauble was coaching a West Rowan program that was on the rise, while Tyson was coaching a Central Cabarrus squad that was one of the league’s established powerhouses.
Tyson has two premium options as far as tonight’s starting pitcher. Both are right-handers. Catawba signee Anthony Allende and North Carolina signee Grayson Atwood are 1A and 1B as far as Tyson is concerned.
“Atwood’s probably gonna be a third baseman or a first baseman or maybe even a corner outfielder when he gets to UNC,” Tyson said. “But he knew we’d be counting on him to pitch some this year, and he’s kinda gotten the pitching bug. I’d still call him a project pitching-wise, but he can run it up there upper 80s and stays around 85. He’s got a fresh arm, with a lot of upside. He could wind up being like that (Bobby) Parnell rascal over your way.”
Atwood, who pitched well in a playoff game at East Rowan last season, is 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and certainly looks like a Division I player is supposed to look when he pulls on a uniform.
“He’s got six homers and is batting around .400,” Tyson said. “And that’s with not a lot of people giving him anything to hit.”
Allende had an injured wrist, which is one reason the Tigers struggled in March. Adding his bat to the middle of the lineup made a difference. Allende was 6-for-10 vs. Rowan squads in the Fieldcrest Cannon tournament.
Yet another star for Mount Pleasant is shortstop Brandon Burris, an Appalachian State signee who was 7-for-13 in the Fieldcrest tournament.
“He’s a scrapper and a field rat,” Tyson said of Burris. “I’ll be real surprised if he doesn’t start at second base for Appalachian.”
In a 1A game tonight, North Rowan is a hefty favorite at home against YVC foe Chatham Central. In 3A, seventh-ranked East Rowan will be favored to win at home against Rockingham, a No. 5 seed, while South Rowan travels to Pineville to challenge Charlotte Catholic. In 2A, Salisbury is an underdog at home against Piedmont. In 4A, sixth-ranked Davie is home against Matthews Butler. Games are at 7 p.m.
See Page 2B for all the West pairings and info on the other playoff games.