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Carson baseball finally beats East

GRANITE QUARRY — The bitter cold persisted, but East Rowan’s baseball dominance of Carson did not.

“Before the game, Dillon Atwell told me to go our there and make some history,” winning pitcher Colton Laws said. “I guess we made some.”

Carson beat East 7-3 on Thursday at Staton Field. The win officially put the Cougars in charge of the NPC race, and it also finally ended a Carson string of futility against the Mustangs that had reached seven seasons and 16 games.

Relieved Carson coach Chris Cauble looked like a 400-pound gorilla had been removed from his shoulders.

“The law of averages,” Cauble said. “At some time, sooner or later, we had to beat East. Sixteen straight we’d lost to those guys, and it’s not like we’re god-awful.”

Far from it. Carson (12-2, 6-1) has won nine straight. There’s a lot of work to do and South Rowan and West Rowan are only one game back, but the Cougars can win their first regular-season title.

“They’re more talented than we are and better than we are right now,” East coach Brian Hightower said. “If we’re going to beat them, we’ve got to all the little things right. We didn’t do those things tonight.”

Carson did very little wrong, making no errors and riding a nine-strikeout performance from Laws (3-1), who took care of the Mustangs (5-8, 4-3) with 85 pitches.

Carson banged out 11 hits, hitting for the cycle in the first two innings against lefty Connor Johnson (4-2), who had blown them away with 16 Ks the first time the teams met.

“It’s not like Johnson didn’t pitch well,” Cauble said. “Our approaches were just a lot better tonight, and that’s why we cut 16 strikeouts down to four.”

Catcher Bryson Prugh homered and drove in three runs for the Cougars.

Given the history of the series, a fast start on the road was important for the Cougars, and Dylan Carpenter provided it. His first-inning triple scored K.J. Pressley. Then he scored on Greg Tonnesen’s groundout to make it 2-0.

East answered. Josh Gobble’s two-out, two-run triple to right-center got the Mustangs even in the bottom of the first.

“I left a pitch up,” Laws said. “And Gobble hit it good.”

Prugh led off the second with his first homer of the season, a blow that put the Cougars ahead to stay.

“Fastball down the middle,” Prugh reported. “Trying for a base hit, but it got out of here.”

Johnson got John Daugherty to rap a double-play ball in the fifth, but the Mustangs not only didn’t turn it, they handed the Cougars a precious run with a wild throw.

Luke Setzer singled in a run for East in the fifth, but the home team still trailed 4-3. East was extra-aggressive on the bases in the fifth and sixth, but the Cougars executed and recorded two big outs.

After Gobble’s big hit early, Laws was very good.

“He’s an amazing pitcher,” Prugh said. “All you have to do as a catcher is keep him calm.”

It was still 4-3 going to the seventh, and there still was a chance for Carson to let it slip away, but Prugh’s two-run single and Laws’ RBI double provided some breathing room.

Laws sat the Mustangs down 1-2-3 in the bottom half.

“I had everything working,” he said. “I could throw every pitch I had for a strike.”

Shortstop Austin McNeill made a fine play on Michael Caldwell’s grounder to end it, and all the Cougars owned a little piece of history.

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