All-County Baseball: Carson’s Atwell top pitcher
By Ronnie Gallagher
CHINA GROVE — When a pitcher is carrying a 9-1 record, it’s not often he’s taken out in the first inning of a baseball game.
That almost happened to Carson’s Dillon Atwell in a first-round playoff game against Robinson earlier this month. He was definitely struggling in front of a large home crowd.
“I was leaning back and everything was high,” Atwell remembered.
Even though Atwell’s defense got him out of a jam with no runs, Carson coach Chris Cauble was debating with himself in the dugout.
“I thought about taking Dillon out,” he said. “But he has earned the right to work himself out of jams. He went to the bullpen and worked out some kinks.”
Atwell said he did a few drills and got his pitches back down.
“It was over when he came back,” Cauble smiled.
The final was 5-0 and Atwell twirled a one-hitter for his ninth straight victory.
When Atwell is at his best, it is an entertaining thing to watch. The junior is already Carson’s all-time leader in wins and has won his second straight Patrick Snider Award as the top pitcher in Rowan County.
“That’s unbelievable with some of the talent we have in the area,” Cauble said.
After winning the award as a sophomore, Atwell experienced arm trouble and didn’t play Legion.
“It was just real sore,” Atwell said. “It was my bicep. I had knots under there. I took some time off and started feeling better. It just took a little time to get back to the right mechanics.”
Atwell won his opener against Cox Mill but then lost the NPC opener against East Rowan, always a Cougar nemesis. By the time he shut out A.L. Brown 5-0 for his third win, he looked like the Atwell of old.
“He didn’t have his good stuff until about midseason,” Cauble said. “But no one is going to outwork him. As far as his fastball, he didn’t have that early in the season. He was pitching on guts and location.”
Atwell wouldn’t lose again. He beat North Iredell, Mount Pleasant and Statesville. Then, he was a winner against South Rowan.
A win over West Iredell improved his record to 8-1 and he delivered against West Rowan in the North Piedmont Conference tournament for his ninth victory.
“It was great defense, really,” Atwell said. “It helped a bunch and built confidence.”
Then came the Robinson win, where he might as well have been Roger Clemens. He was untouchable.
“The last two weeks, Dillon was money,” Cauble said. “His curveball came back and he was peaking at the right time.”
But alas, Atwell wouldn’t pitch again due to a second-round playoff loss. Now, it’s on to his senior season.
“Hopefully, we’ll go farther in the playoffs and win as many games as we can,” Atwell said.
Carson fans would love to see another double-figure-win total in the future.
“To have a chance to three-peat as Pitcher of the Year is a challenge,” Cauble said.
A challenge Atwell will surely be up for.