KANNAPOLIS — It’s safe to say no reserve in Rowan County has had a bigger impact on this baseball season than Carson senior Ben Gragg.
“Whenever I get a chance, I’ve got to try to make something happen,” Gragg said. “I do what I can. That’s my role.”
Gragg, who is headed to Wingate to play football, created more excitement in Carson’s 8-2 win against Northwest Cabarrus on Thursday morning in the F&M Bank Classic held at CMC-NorthEast Stadium.
Getting a start against the Trojans, Gragg had an RBI single on his first at-bat. On his second one, he singled — and then circled the bases with an electrifying dash— when the ball was misplayed in left field.
“When I made the turn at first base, Coach (Dwayne) Fink was yelling for me to keep going,” Gragg said. “I never stopped.”
Northwest has seen all it wants to of Gragg. He homered when the teams played another game in sleet and rain at NWC early this season.
Gragg is versatile. He’s hit two homers, stolen nine bases and pitched in three games.
“Ben might be the best athlete on our team — and in our school,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “Even in games where he’s just been a courtesy runner, he’s made a difference.”
Carson (14-2) broke the school record with its 11th straight victory, an achievement that doesn’t happen without serious pitching depth. Junior John Daugherty (4-0) pitched six good innings before senior Blake Cauble finished up with a 1-2-3 seventh that included two strikeouts.
“Daugherty mixed up his pitches and did what he’s done all year,” Coach Cauble said. “The only thing I had to address with him today was not taking a poor at-bat back out to the mound with him.”
Daugherty pitched remarkably well in cold, wet, dismal conditions. He faced the minimum of 12 Trojans in the first four innings, as Carson built a 4-0 lead.
“The weather was making my arm stiff, but I kept my jacket on,” Daugherty said. “I wasn’t hitting much today, so I worked hard on my pitching. Northwest has some good hitters, but I got a lot of help from my defense. K.J. (Pressley) made a very good catch.”
Pressley always seems to make a memorable catch against Northwest. This time he ran down a booming drive to left-center off the bat of UNC signee Tanner Bigham in the first inning.
Carson had 10 hits against Northwest hurlers Tyler Thomas, Josh Hall and Jarrin Hogue. Gragg, Dylan Carpenter and Connor Bridges led the assault with two each.
Carpenter had two more two-out hits. His RBI single in the third made it 3-0. His run-scoring triple in the sixth made it 5-1.
Bridges had four straight productive at-bats out of the No. 9 spot. Bryson Prugh, Dillon Atwell and Bridges drove in runs in the seventh as the Cougars iced the game.
Pressley had a hit and two walks, while Colton Laws had a single, walk and sac bunt.
“Offensively, we did what we needed to do,” Coach Cauble said.
Carson did it against pretty good pitching.
“Thomas has been as consistent as any arm we’ve had his season,” Northwest coach Joe Hubbard said. “He threw well again, but we made too many mistakes behind him.”
Northwest, always good and sometimes great, is having a rare down season. Thursday’s thumping left the Trojans at 4-11.
Bigham sent a double whistling into the right-field corner and Hogue had an RBI single, but there weren’t many highlights.
“We just haven’t been able to get it going,” Hubbard said. “That’s six straight we’ve lost. There’s always an inning that gets us or a play that gets us, and we just can’t come back from it. We haven’t been able to find ways to win.”
Carson is on the other end of the spectrum right now — confident and on a roll.
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