Prep Baseball: Cougars let one slip away

Published 9:31 pm Thursday, March 31, 2016

By Mike London

KANNAPOLIS — Robinson’s sophomore pitcher Jarrett Smith entered his start against Carson with an ugly ERA of 8.84, but Smith will remember his first varsity victory a long time.
Happy Bulldogs mobbed the young hurler after he threw a complete game and beat Carson, 4-3, in Thursday’s consolation bracket action in the F&M Bank High School Classic.
“When you can just throw strikes and know your fielders are going to make the plays, it changes everything,” Smith said. “My team was behind me today. Everybody played a great game.”
Carson (8-4) wasn’t expected to lose to Robinson (4-8) at Intimidators Stadium. Carson had beaten the Bulldogs, 9-5, in a South Piedmont Conference game on March 8.
Smith’s ERA was 8.84 because the strike zone hasn’t been Smith’s friend.
But against Carson, Smith didn’t walk a single batter. Results can change swiftly if you don’t walk anybody.
“Jarrett pitched out of his mind, and guys saw he was hitting spots and making pitches and they started playing behind him and they started battling on every at-bat,” Robinson coach Damon Whalen said. “We started believing we could beat Carson.”
Carson coach Chris Cauble saw Robinson’s confidence rise after the Cougars failed to smash Smith in the first inning. The Cougars had four singles in that inning, but a pickoff hurt, and Carson settled for one run. Brandon Mock drove it in.
“We let them stay in it and we let them build their confidence,” Cauble said.
Robinson, the home team, scratched out a run in the first against Carson lefty Maddux Holshouser. The Bulldogs took a 2-1 lead in the second when No. 9 batter Jason White stroked a run-scoring single.
In the top of the fourth, Carson had another opportunity to knock out Smith, loading the bases with one out. Cameron Prugh singled in the tying run. Then Morrison’s single up the middle gave the Cougars a 3-2 lead.
But then Smith made the biggest pitch of the game, and it might’ve been his last pitch of the day if he hadn’t located a breaking ball away to Owen White. White is always aggressive and he rapped into a double play.
“We know all about Owen White … great player,” Whalen said. “He got a big double on a changeup the first time we played them, kept his hands back, rolled his wrists, and just hammered the ball. But Smith made a great pitch to him this time. He hit the groundball that we needed.”
Even after the top of the fourth ended with disappointment, Carson still had the lead. Holshouser held it in the bottom of the inning, getting out of a jam with the help of a diving catch by Mock in left field.
But the bottom of the fifth proved decisive.
“Maddux was starting to tire, but my goal today was for him to pitch six innings because we’ve got weeks coming up where we’ve got three conference games,” Cauble said. ‘We’re going to need him to pitch deeper in games.”
It looked like Holshouser was going to get it done in the fifth. With one on and two men out, he walked back-to-back batters to load the bases. Lefty Jackson Raper was at the plate, and Holshouser struck him out on a breaking ball in the dirt. Unfortunately for the Cougars, the ball skipped past catcher Pearce Wilhelm. Raper reached first safely, as the tying run scored. Then Holshouser bounced another one, and the Bulldogs led 4-3.
Frustration continued for the Cougars. Ben Shoaf doubled to lead off the sixth, but the Cougars couldn’t get him home.
Morrison opened the seventh inning with his third hit of the game and his seventh of the tournament, but Smith again got White to ground into a twin killing.
“Owen hit it hard, but right at ’em, and that’s just baseball,” Morrison said. “There’s really no way we should’ve lost the game with as many hits as we had, but we had a lot of popups when we had runners on base.”
Carson out-hit the Bulldogs 10-7, but the bottom line was an unexpected loss.
“It’s not how many hits you get, it’s when you get them,” Cauble said.
NOTES: Carson is 0-2 in the tournament, but is 7-1 in the SPC and tied for first with West Rowan. … Carson plays Salisbury at A.L. Brown today at 11 a.m. for seventh place, while Robinson plays A.L. Brown for fifth at 1:30 p.m. … Morrison is having a fantastic offensive season. He’s batting .548 and has on-base percentage of .612. … Caleb Hall pitched a scoreless sixth for the Cougars. .. Raper, a Catawba signee, hit a double off the wall.

Carson 100 200 0 — 3 10 1
Robinson 110 020 0 — 4 7 3
W — Smith (1-2). L — M. Holshouser (3-1).
Leading hitters — Carson: Michael Morrison 3-for-4, Ben Shoaf 2-for-3. Robinson: Jason White 2-for-3.