Prep Baseball: Carson loses fourth straight game
By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — Carson’s fourth straight South Piedmont Conference loss is in the books.
That’s an unlikely occurrence for a good team, but it’s a balanced league, and baseball is a sport that can humble any club in a hurry.
Northwest Cabarrus came to town on Thursday, smashed six doubles and beat the reeling Cougars, 9-6.
“We’re in a funk, and some pretty good teams have put us in that funk,” coach Chris Cauble said. “I’ve said it all year and it’s true — anyone in this league can beat anyone else. I thought we made some mental strides at the plate tonight, but we need to pitch it better and play defense better.”
Carson hasn’t lost four straight since the 2012 season. If you’re a Carson fan looking for reasons to stay optimistic, those 2012 Cougars rallied from their April swoon and reached the third round of the 3A state playoffs.
As far as the current Cougars (13-9, 10-6), they’ve gone from contending for the SPC title to being tied for third with surging South Rowan in a very short time.
“They put a ‘7’ on the board in one inning against us tonight, and that’s tough to overcome,” Carson third baseman Ben Shoaf said. “We tried to overcome it. It’s been a tough week, but we haven’t stopped fighting all week.”
Northwest Cabarrus (9-12, 6-10) used four pitchers to get the win. Two of those four were named Carson, for what it’s worth. Carson Bost started, Hunter Freeman and Carson Hannah got some big outs, and ace Alex Rodriguez, a Wingate signee, finished off the Cougars.
Only the top eight in the 10-team SPC qualify for the league tournament. Northwest is on the bubble, even though it’s recently beaten West Rowan, East Rowan, and now, Carson.
“We’re fighting for our lives and we had to have this one,” NWC coach Joe Hubbard said. “We knew Alex (who beat East on Monday) could give us an inning if we needed it. Our pitchers did a great job to get us to the seventh with a lead.”
On March 22, Carson beat Northwest Cabarrus, 5-1, behind southpaw Maddux Holshouser, and Cauble sent Holshouser back to the mound for a repeat performance. It didn’t happen.
A two-out, run-scoring double by Shoaf chased home Grayson Whicker and gave Carson a 1-0 lead in the second, but Rodriguez, Devin Faggart and Bost smacked doubles in the third to put the Trojans ahead, 2-1.
“We’ve played defense like crazy all year and we’ve pitched it pretty well,” Hubbard said. “But we lost seven games by one run or in extra innings because we just couldn’t get that key hit. Now we’ve started to hit, and tonight we were hitting balls in the gap. We rattled some fences.”
The fourth inning took an hour, as both teams batted around.
“Northwest smoked the ball,” Cauble said.
Northwest’s seven-run top of the fourth for a 9-1 lead was the team’s biggest explosion all season. It was triggered by a dropped fly ball and free passes, but the Trojans also mauled some baseballs. Rodriguez launched a two-run double to dead center, Faggart produced a two-run single that knocked out Holshouser. Bost and Tim Furr added doubles against reliever Tanner Christy before Carson got the third out on a pickoff.
“We’ve improved our hitting a lot in BP and we’ve improved our approaches with two strikes,” Rodriguez said. “Their lefty is a good pitcher, but we’d seen him before, and we knew he had a good curveball. I went up there looking to hit the fastball, and that’s what I got.”
Down 9-1, Carson tried to fight back. Owen White homered to start the home fourth, Brandon Mock and Shoaf produced doubles, and Cameron Prugh bounced a two-run single through the hole. A double by Michael Morrison cut Carson’s deficit to 9-6, but lefty reliever Hunter Freeman got the biggest out of the game by getting Ryan Bearden to ground out with the bases loaded to end Carson’s five-run uprising.
Freeman got the Cougars out again in the fifth with the bases loaded. This time leadoff man Logan Ridenhour’s groundball was the third out.
“They made every routine play,” Cauble said.
Hannah relieved Freeman in the sixth and got three straight Cougars to hit the ball in the air.
When Hannah walked Shoaf with one out in the seventh, Hubbard moved Rodriguez from shortstop to the mound. He quickly ended the game with a routine groundout and a strikeout.
“I love this team, and we’ll fight through this,” Cauble said. “I saw what I wanted to see after this game. I could see it in my team’s eyes that they’re ready to turn this thing around. There’s a lot of baseball still to be played.”
Shoaf agreed with that.
“Northwest hit the ball a lot better than they did the first time we played them and I give them credit,” Shoaf said. “But we’ll be back.”
NW Cabarrus 002 700 0 — 9 11 0
Carson 010 500 0 — 6 8 2
HR — Carson: White (2)
Leading hitters — NWC: Devin Faggart 2-for-3, 3 RBIs, Carson Bost 2-for-3, 2 RBIs, Alex Rodriguez 2-for-4, 2 RBIs, Carson: Ben Shoaf 2-for-3, 2 RBIs, Brandon Mock 2-for-4, Grayson Whicker 1-for-2, 2 runs, Cameron Prugh 2 RBIs.
W — Hunter Freeman. L — Maddux Holshouser (4-3). S — Rodriguez.