Prep Baseball: Carson 1, West Iredell 0
By David Shaw
CHINA GROVE— If Dillon Atwell is guilty of anything, it’s not being able to tell time.
The Carson sophomore was supposed to be next year’s model — an untamed right-hander who would take a few lumps this season and earn a spot in the Cougars rotation next spring.
Instead, he’s grown up before our eyes. Never was that more evident than Friday night, when he cleverly pitched a complete-game shutout and helped Carson gain a pivotal 1-0 NPC win over visiting West Iredell.
“I knew we had to win this,” Atwell said after Carson (11-9, 5-4) tightened the already congested league standings. “And for some reason I felt really confident. I knew everybody behind me wanted it as much as I did.”
Atwell outdueled West Iredell southpaw Sean Grant, a senior who yielded an unearned run in the first inning and was denied a shot at his sixth victory.
“Just tough luck,” he said after the Warriors (10-7 overall) dipped to 6-4 in conference play. “We had plenty of chances to win. We just couldn’t execute. We couldn’t hit.”
That probably had something to do with Atwell, a command-and-control pitcher who had three effective pitches in his arsenal. “Everything was working,” gushed Carson catcher Bryson Prugh. “His fastball had a ton of movement. His curveball was great and his changeup worked good when we needed it.”
Carson gave Atwell the only run he would need after Grant retired the first two batters in the bottom of the first. Josh Martin skipped a two-out single into left field and Prugh followed with a bloop hit into shallow right. West outfielder Lance Clanton charged the ball, then overthrew third baseman Dwayne Williams as Martin hustled to the bag. He continued home when the ball sailed into a dead-ball area.
“It wasn’t much,” Prugh said. “But I knew it would be enough if Josh went hard out of the box. He drew the overthrow by making them make a play.”
Afterward, WI coach Randy Martin wore a contented face. “That was the big play of the game,” he said. “It wasn’t a bad ballgame. It’s kind of the way we played them the first time (in a 3-2 West win). We pulled off a double play with the bases loaded in the seventh inning to end the game.”
This time Atwell — now 4-1 with a 1.67 ERA — made the memorable play. He opened the sixth inning by walking leadoff man Brett Pope on four pitches. A two-out error put runners at second and third before he issued his fourth free pass of the game, loading the bases. When he threw ball one to slugger Tyler McHargue, Carson coach Chris Cauble paid him a visit.
“He just told me to relax, take a deep breath and pitch the way I know how to,” Atwell recalled.
When the counted stretched to 3-and-2, Cauble signaled for a fastball right down the middle. “He had to,” Atwell said. “If I walked (McHargue), I was gonna walk in a run. I just had to throw it over and trust the defense.”
He didn’t have to worry. Atwell fired a mid-80’s fastball and escaped with a swinging strikout. “He blew it right by him,” Prugh said.
In the seventh Atwell collected his fourth and fifth strikeouts and induced Pope into a game-ending groundout, capping a tidy, 115-pitch effort.
“He’s been a battler for us all year,” Cauble said. “He started out just finishing up our non-conference games, but right now he’s pitched his way into the mix. He wasn’t afraid to throw any pitch at any time and got us a big win.”
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