3A Baseball Playoffs: Carson 1, Mount Pleasant 0

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 13, 2011

By Paul Hershey
MOUNT PLEASANT — It was just two weeks ago that Mount Pleasant wore out Rowan County pitching for 34 runs in three games of the F&M Bank Classic.
Carson was in that tournament, but it didn’t face the Tigers in the round-robin format. One can only guess whether the Cougars would have fared any better had the two teams played that week, but it sure was a different story Friday night.
With help from a flawless defense behind him, Josh Martin shut down Mount Pleasant’s bats on their home field, and Carson held on for a 1-0 victory in the opening round of the 3A playoffs.
“I did expect it to be a close game, but I didn’t think we would hold them to no runs the way they’ve been swinging the bat,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “They’re scary one through nine, and I’m just glad we lived to see another day.
“Josh Martin, what can I say. Awesome.”
The sophomore right-hander scattered just four hits and worked out of major jams in the fifth and sixth innings to make Kyle Youngo’s RBI single in the third the game-winning hit.
“There were two other games (this season) where I felt pretty good, but this definitely tops that, at a big time in the playoffs and everything,” Martin said.
“My defense played great all night. They hit a lot of balls hard and the outfield ran them down. I had a lot of confidence in my defense tonight and that let me throw strikes and try to stay ahead of people.”
Mount Pleasant’s bats did connect as Martin recorded just four strikeouts, but the flyballs stayed in the park and Carson’s outfielders tracked them down.
There were two deep ones to left in the first, another to center that K.J. Pressley ran down in the second and a liner that left fielder Tripp Cross charged in to grab in the third.
“Josh kept them off balance, but they still got the barrel on the ball,” Cauble said. “The first three or four innings it seemed like every ball they hit was going to the fence. Luckily, defensively we played flawless, and we knew we had to play flawless to win this game.”
Martin did his best individual work in the fifth and sixth, though.
A single and a walk put two Tigers on with nobody out to begin the fifth and prompted Cauble to walk to the mound for a short visit.
“He just said if they’re going to give you an out, try and take it on the bunt,” Martin said. “I really just got distracted there and I tried to come back. My goal was to let one run come in, but I was going to try my best to let no runs cross.”
A flyball by leadoff hitter Brandon Burris advanced the lead runner 90 feet and brought up Jake Kimble, who had singled his first two times up. This time, though, Martin got him to fly out to center, shallow enough to keep the runner at third. Martin then caught a high pop-up off the bat of Grayson Atwood to end the inning.
“He got them out on their front foot and got a couple flyballs at the right time,” Cauble said.
Martin started his own trouble in the sixth by hitting a batter. After a stolen base and a popout, the sophomore was the victim of an almost-never-seen call as the home plate umpire ruled catcher Joseph Basinger set up outside the box, resulting in a balk.
Cauble was irate at first and then argued with the umpire for several minutes, but to no avail and the tying run moved to third.
“Right, wrong or indifferent it was called,” Cauble said. “I just told (the umpire) that the ballgame was too good to make a call like that and put the tying run at third with less than two outs.”
Cauble then went out to talk to Martin again.
“After I went back out Josh said, ‘Coach, I got this. Don’t worry, man,’ ” Cauble said.
On the next pitch, Martin got a called third strike for the second out and then induced an inning-ending popout to second.
“I kept thinking, we’re swinging it good, it’s going to eventually fall,” stunned Mount Pleasant coach Bryan Tyson said. “They’re not going to stop us for seven innings, but, my gosh, they did.
“We didn’t swing the bat good against Robinson (in the SPC tournament championship), but we worked hard all week and I thought tonight we were back to like we were for those two or three weeks in a row, and just hit it right at people.”
Carson (16-8) had a chance for some insurance in the top of the seventh when Martin hit a leadoff double. A hit batsman and a wild pitch put runners at second and third with no outs. Tigers starter Grayson Atwood, though, got a strikeout, and courtesy runner Dylan Carpenter was thrown out at the plate when Sam Williams took ball four after squaring around for an apparent squeeze. Atwood then struck out Pressley to keep it a one-run game.
The Cougars totaled just four hits against Atwood, but did execute just enough. Leading off the third, Cross was hit by a pitch and moved to second on Williams’ sacrifice bunt. After an infield hit by Pressley, Youngo lined a single to center to plate the run.
“I guess I was thinking I had to get the job done,” Youngo said. “Runner on third, you’ve got to get him in, in the playoffs. Something great’s got to happen and it’s got to come from somebody. When I hit that one run in, it felt really good.”
It felt even better when Martin made it stand up with a 1-2-3 seventh, only his second perfect inning. He got Burris, an Appalachian State commit, to swing at a pitch in the dirt to end it.
“My four-seam got hit a lot so I worked the two-seam fastball and my curveball got better as I went through the game,” Martin said. “The last inning was definitely the best.”

NOTES: Carson was hoping to get a home game in the second round, but will instead play at Charlotte Catholic, a rematch of a meeting in the same round last year. “We had the tying run and winning run on second and third in the last inning and didn’t execute so we owe them a little payback,” Cauble said.