• 59°

Catawba with a Good Friday against Carson-Newman

SALISBURY ­­— Catawba catcher Jon Wallace is a talented impressionist and offered his imitation of a Craig Brooks fastball.
“Pow!” yelled Wallace, sounding like a cannon blowing away a significant chunk of a fort.
One place where gas is still cheap is Newman Park. In fact, the gas offered by Brooks, a junior who owns a blazer of a fastball, is absolutely free.
Brooks gassed Carson-Newman for seven innings on an overcast Friday that finally turned to rain, got some help from another wonderful catch in center field by Blake Houston, and beat the visiting Eagles 6-0.
This is the final weekend of the SAC regular season. Friday’s victory kept Catawba (27-16, 20-7) tied for first with Wingate. Two games are scheduled today at Newman, starting at 1 p.m. — weather permitting.
It was the 10th straight mound victory for Brooks (10-2), who has a 9-0 record in SAC games.
“To my view, he’s the pitcher of the year in our league,” Catawba coach Jim Gantt said. “That’s no disrespect to anyone else, but he’s done all you can ask a guy to do.”
Brooks was a good two-way player as a freshman and saved a game in the D-II World Series.
He was literally unhittable early in his sophomore year — five relief appearances, no hits, eight Ks — when an injury ended his season as far as pitching.
He’s returned as a starter this year — even better than advertised. He leads the SAC in strikeouts (86) as well as wins, and as a bonus he’s batting .355.
“No, I didn’t really see it coming,” Brooks said. “Not after I started the season 0-2.”
What has to be disconcerting to hitters is that Brooks looks like a normal guy. It’s not like he’s 6-foot-6. The Catawba roster says he’s 5-11, 185, and even that might be generous. He’s like a right-handed Ron Guidry or Billy Wagner.
“Umpires always ask before a game what pitches a guy is going to be throwing,” Wallace said. “With Craig, I tell them it’s going to be fastballs. He looks like he’s a buck-seventy-five, so they’re always surprised to hear that until that first fastball comes in — and pow! He’s got crazy velocity, one of the best fastballs I’ve ever been able to call for. Usually when you’ve got a guy down 0-2, you’ll spin something up there, but with Craig, we’ll go fastball even on 0-2. That helps keep his pitch-count down.”
Brooks mixes in curves and changeups, but his nine strikeouts Friday were either produced or set up by fastballs. Pow!
“I was able to get ahead with fastballs,” Brooks said. “Jon and I worked off that.”
Houston, watching from center field, marveled at Brooks one more time.
“It’s a lot of fun playing behind a guy that challenges hitters like that,” Houston said. “I’d say he’s throwing his fastball 85 percent of the time. They might know it’s coming, but they aren’t hitting it.”
Brooks allowed only four singles. He’d thrown 109 pitches after seven, and that was enough.
Michael Trombino, who got help from a 6-4-3 double play, and Ryan McClintock, who ended the game with a strikeout with Eagles at second and third, finished up.
Catawba got two hits each from Ethan Satterfield, Keaton Hawks, T.J. Wharton and Paul Kronenfeld. Houston scored twice.
The Indians gave Brooks early runs to work with. Hawks’ RBI single and Satterfield’s run-scoring bunt made it 2-0 in the first inning.
Kronenfeld’s infield hit drove in Wallace, who had walked on a great at-bat, for a 3-0 lead in the fifth.
Up-the middle singles back-to-back by Satterfield and Wharton in the seventh made it 5-0.
Brooks often plays shortstop when he’s not pitching, but Dylan Richardson stepped in at short Friday, and his loud homer in the eighth closed the scoring.
“The chance to win the conference is still in our hands, and that’s all you can ask for,” Gantt said. “I’m proud of this team, and you can never give up on them. At Tusculum and at Lincoln Memorial they came back from tough losses to win the last game of a series. Against Newberry, we kicked it around one game and looked bad, but we came back to win the next one.”
Catawba will try to win the SAC regular-season championship today, and if the Indians can find a way to get through the SAC tournament, Brooks could be a handful for hitters who haven’t seen him.
“We’ve got a lot of veterans on this team,” Houston said. “And we’re playing with some confidence.”

Comments

Comments closed.

Coronavirus

Rowan remains in state’s middle, yellow tier for COVID-19 community spread

Crime

Blotter: Man faces sexual exploitation charge for images on Instagram

News

Defendant convicted in attempted murder case on the run after fleeing from trial

Business

Downtown Gateway Building to be renamed for late Paul Fisher

Coronavirus

Rowan County COVID-19 data for April 15

Local

Rep. Warren’s bill would prohibit parking in electric vehicle charging stations

Local

Historic Preservation Commission approves Integro Technologies expansion, Paint the Pavement project

Education

Faith Academy, RSS will negotiate over what goes, stays in elementary school

Crime

Teacher killed in Alamance County shootout with Mexican drug cartel

Coronavirus

Bill would give more tax breaks on COVID-19 loans

Nation/World

No response as divers knock on capsized ship’s hull

Local

Quotes of the week

Crime

Blotter: Man found on church property with litany of drugs

Crime

Man charged in connection to 2019 overdose death

Business

‘It’s our big time’: Salisbury Farmers Market reopens Saturday

Education

Schools capital funding still frozen as RSS sends local budget to county

Business

Shields, Cheerwine Festival receive N.C. Main Street Awards

Kannapolis

Duke University launches kidney disease study in Kannapolis for people of African descent

Education

Horizons Unlimited will hold in-person summer camps

Education

Education briefs: Catawba planning for more in-person activities, free summer school tuition

Coronavirus

County’s full COVID-19 vaccinations top 22,600

High School

High school golf: With Merrell, Mustangs back on top

Local

Spencer investigating rat problem on South Iredell Street

News

Livingstone, Mission House Church to host national ‘Black Voters Matter’ listening session