Atwell, Prugh carry Cougars
CONCORD — The Carson Cougars are going for their third straight baseball championship Friday night but to get there they will have to overcome longtime nemesis East Rowan.
The Cougars (21-5) spotted neighborhood rival South Rowan two runs early in last night’s SPC semifinal game at Cox Mill High then roared back to take a 9-2 win. The complete effort win was sparked by a 14-hit attack, solid defense and the bulldog pitching of senior Dillon Atwell.
The third seeded Raiders (20-6) nicked Atwell for two runs on four hits right out of the gate but managed only five more hits and goose-eggs on the scoreboard over the final six innings. Atwell improved to 6-2 with his complete game effort and was quick to credit his teammates for the success.
“That was playing together as a team right there” Atwell said. “They score two early and we don’t lay down. Everybody comes in and picks you up. We are not a team anymore, we are more of a family.”
Raider starter Austin Corriher was strong in the first two innings but suddenly lost the zone in the third. Carson put together four straight hits topped by a two run double by catcher Bryson Prugh to tie the score, A fielder’s choice grounder by Brandon Sloop put the Cougars ahead 3-2 then a bases loaded walk made it 4-2 and chased Corriher (4-4) from the mound.
Prugh was glad to get a key hit but saved his praise to his battery mate Atwell. “He kept them off-balance, got himself out of trouble and had all of his stuff working,” Prugh said of Atwell. “This gives us a big head of steam heading into Friday night and the playoffs.”
Standing in the way of the Cougars’ next title is regular season champion East Rowan, a 1-0 semi-final winner over Cox Mill. Carson has managed to beat the Mustangs just one time in their eight years of existence and were swept by East in the regular season this year. Now the top two seeds will square off Friday at Cox Mill for the SPC tourney title.
“We’ve got something to prove,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said of the championship match. “They have had our number for eight years so it is time to change the tide a little bit.”
Cauble cited the pitching of Atwell and his defense but was most satisfied with the team’s hitting after they fell behind early. “We fell behind early but their was no panic,” he said. “We kept pitching it well and we finally started hitting it the way we should.”
The Cougars broke the game open in the fifth inning with three more runs on five hits off reliever Bryan Hallman. The big blow was a clutch pinch hit single by Christian Houpe with two outs that plated a pair of runs and made it 6-2. Heath Mitchem drove in another with a single. Carson then strung together four consecutive hits off Hallman in the sixth, capped by a two run double down the left field line by Colton Laws.
Michael Morrison had three hits for the winners while Prugh, Mitchem, John Daugherty, Laws and Brandon Sloop each had two hits. Houpe, Laws and Prugh each drove in a pair of runs.
The Raiders were topped by Tyler Fuller and Matt Honeycutt with two hits each while Austin Corriher and Eric Stowe drove in the runs. There was no miracle comeback in this game for the Raiders as they have often done this season, They hurt themselves by having three runners thrown out at third base including two that ended an inning.
“We just could not catch a break tonight,” South coach Thad Chrismon stated. “Everything just went the other way but that is the way baseball is.” He says his team is looking forward to getting started in the state 3A play-offs next week, likely on the road. “We have bigger fish to fry now,” Chrismon stated. “We are looking forward to the play-offs and I think we will be focused and ready,”
Both Carson and East Rowan, regardless of the outcome Friday night, will be hosting first round play-off games next Tuesday.
Carson 9, South 2
South Rowan 200 000 0 — 2
Carson 004 032 x — 9
WP – Atwell (6-2). LP – A. Corriher (4-4)
2B — Laws, Sloop, A. Corriher, Stowe.
Leading hitters — South: Honeycutt 2-2, Fuller 2-4; Carson: Morrison 3-4; Prugh 2-4, 2 RBI, Sloop 2-4, 2 RBI, Mitchem 2-4, 1 RBI; Daugherty 2-3; Laws 1-3, 2 RBI.