2012 All-Rowan County Baseball: Carson's Atwell Pitcher of Year
By Ronnie Gallagher
CHINA GROVE — With all of his success this season, Carson pitcher Dillon Atwell received his biggest raves after a loss.
The Cougars were playing a talented Weddington team in the third round of the 3A playoffs. Warriors coach Travis Poole told Carson coach Chris Cauble that he warned his players not to take their sophomore foe lightly.
“He told his guys, ‘When (Atwell) goes out there and warms up, you’re going to think you’ll be able to knock the crap out of it,’ ” Cauble said, relaying the conversation. “He told me they were in the dugout thinking, ‘Oh this is going to be a cakewalk.’ ”
Atwell worked his fastball in and out, and up and down. When Weddington came to bat in the bottom of the sixth, the Warriors trailed 1-0.
“(Poole) told me it was the first game his team had really squabbled with each other,” Cauble said. “They were getting restless. They thought it was getting ready to be the end for them.”
Only a two-run homer — on what Cauble thought was a decent Atwell pitch — beat Carson 2-1, ending the Cougars’ season at 19-10.
“Dillon really hurt a long time after that,” Cauble said. “Even today, he talks about wanting to get another crack at them.”
Atwell may not have won that game, but he was virtually unstoppable after Cauble decided to move him from the No. 3 starter to No. 1. He finished the season 7-2. He had an ERA of 1.13 in 552/3 innings. Even more impressive, he walked just 19.
He was a clear-cut choice for the 2012 Patrick Snider Memorial Award as Rowan County’s top pitcher.
“I was kinda surprised,” Atwell said upon learning he was the winner.
His club was 8-8 at one point and Atwell wasn’t pitching the key games. Cauble had decisions to make. The biggest was making Atwell and fellow soph Colton Laws his No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers.
“When we made the move, he was definitely lights out,” Cauble said of Atwell. “He was not going to relinquish the opportunity to pitch.”
Atwell didn’t take any of the credit, pointing to what he described as his “super defense. They saved me many times.”
Atwell’s humility was as much a part of his success as locating his fastball, according to Cauble.
“The kids rallied behind him,” he said. “How do you not rally around a kid who cares more about the team than himself?”
The Cougars gelled at the right time, winning nine straight and taking the NPC tournament. Atwell’s domination became so commonplace that very few even noticed he was on a 33-inning scoreless streak until that sixth-inning homer at Weddington.
He threw seven zeroes in a 1-0, four-hit win over Sean Grant and West Iredell. Then 62/3 innings of two-hit ball against North Iredell. He shut out West Rowan on five hits in seven innings during the NPC tournament. Then six innings and a five-hitter against Parkwood. He was throwing 82-83 miles per hour consistently.
“He pounded the strike zone,” Cauble said.
Catcher Bryson Prugh was asked what it was like during that unbelievable stretch.
“You put it in cruise control and enjoy it,” he smiled.
Atwell was reminded that once he became the full-time starter, his team became one of the best in western North Carolina.
“When they needed me, I came in and did what I was supposed to,” he shrugged.
“He’s a good, hard-nosed country boy who I love,” Cauble smiled.
And the best part? Cauble and the Carson baseball fans get to love him for two more years.