Prep baseball: North Rowan 6, Carson 3

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 20, 2012

By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — Coming into Thursday’s game, North Rowan pitcher Travis Holshouser had allowed 28 runs — 24 of them unearned.
“Travis isn’t a strikeout pitcher,” North coach Aaron Rimer explained. “You look at his numbers and you can see that his defense either makes him or breaks him.”
It made him at Carson.
With the help of spectacular diving catches by center fielder Mason Jennings and left fielder Parker Smith, Holshouser went the distance and beat the Cougars 6-3.
It’s become sort of an annual surprise — 1A North (9-9) has knocked off 3A Carson (10-9) three straight seasons.
The game ended, fittingly, with Greg Tonnesen slashing a vicious liner on an 0-2 pitch that deflected straight up into the air off Holshouser’s glove.
Gravity took over. The ball plopped right back into Holshouser’s leather, and he had an easy DP to seal the victory.
“That one kinda scared me,” Holshouser said. “But I had gone out there in the seventh to finish it.”
Holshouser, a junior, is the son of Rowan Hall of Famer Jeff Holshouser. He only struck out three, but he didn’t walk anyone. He had a three-hit shutout through six and would have shut out the Cougars if North had been able to turn a double play in the seventh. Nerves took over a little bit at the end, but Holshouser took a deep breath — and finished.
“It was almost like we were afraid to win a baseball game there in the seventh,” Rimer said. “But Travis did a heck of a job pitching, and our outfielders went and got a lot of balls for him.”
The game reminded quite a few people of the Carson-North struggle in China Grove in 2010. North hurler Josh Price kept the best team in Carson history off-balance in that one, and the Cavaliers, who would finish the season 10-15, pulled off a shocking 2-1 victory.
Holshouser performed a lot like Price, starting a lot of hitters off with breaking balls, and then changing speeds and varying locations.
“Travis was pretty amazing,” said right fielder Chance Mazza, the offensive hero for the Cavaliers. “And our defense was amazing. This is the way the game is supposed to be played.”
Mazza went 4-for-4, scored three times and knocked in two big insurance runs in the top of the seventh. The sophomore has seven hits in his last two games.
North is in seventh place in a 1A league and no sure thing to make the playoffs, but it jumped dramatically on the respect meter by beating Carson once again. Carson was coming off a huge win against South Rowan on Tuesday.
“They made some diving catches that stopped what could have been big innings for us, “ Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “But there’s no need to hold our heads down or anything. It’s upsetting to lose, but it’s not like we were bad. North just played great.”
Ethan Free started on the mound for Carson, and North nicked him for one run early.
Free felt “something pull” in his shoulder in the third and was replaced by submariner Austin Bracewell.
North stretched its lead to 3-0 in the fourth, with perfect bunts by Justin Ogg and Clint Veal keying the inning.
Dillon Atwell relieved Bracewell for the sixth and kept the deficit at 3-0, but North tacked on three in the top of the seventh against Blake Cauble for a 6-0 lead.
Cauble allowed four hits in that frame, but two were bloops and one was an infield scratcher. Mazza’s two-run single was the only ball whacked squarely.
Josh Martin, robbed by Jennings in the second, singled to start the Carson seventh. After a lineout and a mishap on a potential DP ball, pinch-hitter Devon Peacock’s double made it 6-1. Dylan Carpenter’s two-run gapper followed, but Rimer stuck with Holshouser, and it paid off.
“This is a big win for us,” said Holshouser, who also made a fine catch on a foul popup. “Great defense. “Everybody was laying out for every ball in the outfield.”