Prep baseball: South beats Carson 6-5 in a wild one

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, March 17, 2015

By Mike London

LANDIS — South Rowan High lefty Blake Johnson has won nine of his 10 varsity decisions for a reason.

There’s a quiet, unshakeable confidence about the stocky junior. He’s like a poised, stoic 30-year-old veteran when it comes to not getting too high or too low.

All of Johnson’s calmness was needed Monday, and he keyed a wild, 6-5 South Rowan victory over rival Carson. Coming off an 8-0 SPC pounding from Cox Mill, the Raiders needed this one. South Rowan (4-1, 4-1 SPC) is still tied for first place in the league with East Rowan.

“What we preach is adversity is coming at some point in every game, and the key is how you respond,” South Rowan coach Thad Chrismon said. “We didn’t respond well at Cox Mill. Today, we did.”

It was a pitching duel for five innings. Owen White was good on the mound for the Cougars (4-2, 2-2), but South Rowan nicked him  for an unearned run in the first on Eric Stowe’s run-scoring single. The Raiders made it 2-0 in the fifth when Stowe tripled to right, and Johnson knocked him in.

“Give them a lot of credit,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “For five innings, South did everything right.”

Johnson took a three-hit shutout into the sixth. Carson made it 2-1, when South failed to make two plays, and Kris Peacock delivered a two-out single.

Cauble sent Caleb Hall to the mound for Carson in the sixth inning. South Rowan scratched out some base runners, and then No. 9 hitter Tyler Rary fouled off a half-dozen pitches before slapping a two-run single, just over the glove of leaping second baseman Matt Saul.

“I peeked at the ball when I was running and saw it was going to fall,” Rary said. “I just wanted to have a good at-bat. Blake was pitching a great game, and I wanted to get him some runs.”

When leadoff man Chandler Corriher drove in more insurance, South Rowan led, 5-1. Johnson took that cushion to the bump for the seventh inning.

The seventh frame began with a bad-hop single. Johnson got a strikeout, but Michael Morrison walked and Heath Mitchem singled. After a balk, it was 5-2, and after White hit a sacrifice fly, it was 5-3. With Carson down to its final out, Saul came to the plate — and he hit one over the left-field fence to tie the game.

“I was just trying to get a hit, but I got a pitch right where I like the ball and put a good swing on it,” Saul said.

Chrismon left Johnson in. He ended the inning with a strikeout.

“He made a mistake on the homer, but when a kid has pitched that well that long, you want to stay with him,” Chrismon said. “As a former pitcher, I know how much Blake wanted to get that next guy out, and he got him.”

South Rowan scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Raiders had first and third with one out after hits by Hunter Travis and Bo Corriher. Stowe was walked intentionally to set up a double play. Johnson was up next.

Johnson came through with a line-drive single to center against Peacock, who had relieved Hall.  It was a walk-off  for the Raiders, and they celebrated.

“I hate they tied the game on the homer, but what was done was done,” Johnson said. “I’m just glad I got a chance to hit. It’s a huge win for us because we beat a great team.”

Chrismon wasn’t surprised to see Johnson come through.

“Baseball is a game of redemption,” he said. “Blake redeemed himself.”

Carson had made it a habit of pummeling South Rowan on its home field in recent seasons, but Cauble was upbeat.

“I’m proud of my team because we were down to our last out and we still didn’t quit,” Cauble said. “There’s going to be a lot of close games like this. We play in a league where anybody can beat anybody.”

Carson 000  001  4 — 5  7   2

South   100 103    1   — 6 9  3

HR — Saul (1).

W — Johnson (2-0). L — Hall (0-1).