By Mike London
STATESVILLE — Father’s Day came earlier than calendars expected.
Jacob Fink got the last RBI and Blake Cauble struck out the last batter, as Carson rolled 12-3 at West Iredell on Monday to clinch its first-ever NPC championship.
Blake is the son of Chris Cauble, who’s head-coached every game Carson has played in its seven-year history. Jacob is the son of assistant Dwayne Fink, who also has been been part of the program since the first practice of the Cougars’ inagural season in 2007.
Dillon Atwell pitched well again for the Cougars (19-3, 9-1) and got the first 20 outs. But it was fitting that Blake Cauble got the final one.
“Jacob and Blake, that’s two great kids, and we couldn’t have done what we’ve done without Dwayne Fink,” Coach Cauble said. “So there’s some satisfaction there.”
Carson still has two NPC games left, but the crown already is decided.
“You don’t expect that to happen in this league,” West Iredell coach Randy Martin said. “But Carson pitches it, they make plays, and they don’t beat themselves. They hit off-speed stuff about as well as anyone I’ve ever seen. That’s a good team, and we congratulate them.”
Dylan Carpenter and John Daugherty have slugged all year, and that continued. Carpenter’s two-run double and Daugherty’s two-run single keyed Carson’s seven-run third that decided the game.
“We’ve had trouble scoring runs,” Martin said. “We knew if we were going to beat them it had to be 3-2 or 4-3. But then they put up a 7.”
West Iredell (5-12, 3-7) actually broke on top, scratching a run in the first when Brett Pope tagged up and scored on a pop fly to shallow right that back-pedaling second baseman John Patella caught as he tumbled to the grass.
But Patella stroked the first of his two RBI singles for a 1-1 tie in the third. Carson sent 13 men to the plate in that inning and knocked out West Iredell starter Braeden Daniels, who had taken care of six straight batters the first two innings.
Giving Atwell seven runs to work with is a sure thing. He’s 8-1 this season and 15-3 over the last two.
“I threw a little better than I have been,” Atwell said, after striking out seven and walking three. I was locating well. Then we had that seven-run inning, and I was able to put it on cruise control a little bit.”
Atwell was the Rowan Pitcher of the Year in 2012 but has just started looking like his old self in the past few weeks.
“I wasn’t throwing like I wanted to earlier,” he said. “But this team always picked up by scoring runs and by making plays, and that’s what baseball is all about.”
Shortstop Austin McNeill gloved two liners to help Atwell out, and left fielder Carpenter threw out a man at the plate.
Carson didn’t engage in an overly exuberant celebration because, in the long run, teams are remembered or not remembered based on the postseason.
“There’s a lot more stuff yet to do,” is how Atwell put it.
Carson might do that stuff. Last night it won easily at a frequent house of horrors. The Cougars had lost four straight times at West Iredell.
“Winning the NPC tournament last year was an icebreaker that showed these guys they could win,” Coach Cauble said. “This year has brought a lot of firsts. This is the first time we’ve been the best for a whole season.”