Prep Baseball: Carson 9, South Rowan 5

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 17, 2012

By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — Carson coach Chris Cauble handed Colton Laws his first pressurized pitching assignment, and the tall sophomore was the difference in a critical 9-5 NPC win against South Rowan.
Laws was a heck of a lot better than the final score sounds. He allowed only two hits in six innings, and that allowed the Cougars (10-8, 4-4) to take control of a contest that included rain and drizzle early on.
“We were confident,” said center fielder K.J. Pressley, who had two of Carson’s 11 hits. “Every time Colton has pitched this year, he’s done very well. Even as big as this game was, we knew we just had to play defense.”
The game was extra large for both sides. Carson coach Chris Cauble joked it was gi-normous — somewhere between gigantic and enormous.
The loss puts South (13-8, 5-5) in a weird position. The Raiders lead Rowan County in wins, but they’re in serious danger of missing the 3A playoffs. Not only is South now at .500 in the league, it’s been swept by two teams — Carson and West Rowan — that it could end up tied with. That may be fatal when they start figuring out tiebreakers for the NPC’s four playoff berths.
“With where they were and where we were, this was the biggest game of the season,” Cauble said. “It’s huge to get the tiebreaker with South.”
South had been on a major roll, winning 10 of its previous 12 games, but it didn’t look sharp in this one. Weather made it a challenge to get mentally into it, and then Laws just started mowing people down.
It was still scoreless in the top of the third. That’s when South had its chance for a big inning. Laws allowed a single by Tyler Fuller and then walked three straight men to hand the Raiders a 1-0 lead.
“I wasn’t really nervous, but I just lost it there for a little bit,” Laws said. “I was flying open and everything was going way high. But we didn’t give up, and I was able to redeem myself later.”
Laws escaped potential disaster when opposing hurler Matt Miller smacked a 3-1 slider hard to center field with the bases full. Pressley easily glided in and made the play to end the inning.
“Right at me,” Pressley said. “Came in two steps.”
Carson answered that solo run with a four-run bottom of the third that would trigger nine unanswered runs.
Connor Bridges started the pivotal inning with one of his three hits. After Austin McNeill’s nice bunt, Pressley’s rocket to center made it 1-1.
Two walks later, Miller was in trouble. Bryson Prugh then bounced into a run-scoring fielder’s choice, and when South threw the ball away trying to turn a longshot two, Carson picked up a gift run. Then Laws helped himself with a two-out knock for a 4-1 lead.
“We didn’t make some plays that would have limited damage and we didn’t get hits in key situations,” South coach Thad Chrismon said. “We didn’t do the things we’ve been doing to win games. We didn’t play well enough to win.”
Carson got three in the fifth on a run-scoring wild pitch and a two-run, pinch-hit single by Devon Peacock. That knocked out Miller (3-4).
Greg Tonnesen and Laws drove in runs as the Cougars tacked on two more in the sixth for a safe 9-1 lead.
“The team we were tonight is the kind of team I love to coach,” Cauble said. “The dugout was into it, and we had an awesome battle mentality at the plate, fouling off pitches and then getting a hit or fouling off pitches until we could take a walk. And we didn’t do it against just anybody. We did it against Miller, their ace, and a college signee.”
South got four in the seventh. Three scored on Parker Hubbard’s double into the right-field corner, but he was thrown out trying to get to third. Then Austin Bracewell nailed down the final two outs.
“We fought back hard at the end, but we really didn’t play our best tonight,” Hubbard said. “We should have played a whole lot better.”