Marvin Ridge ends Carson’s baseball season

Published 12:20 am Saturday, May 14, 2016

By David Shaw

WAXHAW — The first thing Carson’s baseball team lost Friday night was its focus. Then the Cougars lost their heads — and along with it a chance to advance in the 3A state playoffs.

What could have been a documented, defining moment for a team that’s persevered all spring instead goes down as a season-ending, 3-2 loss at Marvin Ridge.

“It was a great baseball game,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “But we let our emotions get the best of us and the rest of it is no comment. I don’t want to get fined.”

Fair enough. Cauble had to keep his distance after initially being confined to the dugout, then later ejected as emotions boiled onto the diamond. Carson right-fielder Aldyn Blackwelder was also disqualified for arguing a sixth-inning called strike.

“I hate it because I know what Chris Cauble is about,” winning coach Mark Mennitt said after Marvin Ridge (24-4) earned its 13th straight victory and a berth in the third round. “And I know what his team is about. I hate it got there, but it did.”

Frustration ruled the night for Carson (19-11), which had won two in a row and six of its previous seven games. Starting pitcher Owen White struggled to find any sort of rhythm and comfort zone against the defending state champion. The hard-throwing sophomore walked four batters, hit another, committed two errors and a balk, and needed 121 pitches to survive six innings.

“Owen usually gets better as the game wears on,” said Cauble. “And he did. But they did a nice job getting their runs early off of pitches that were just left up. Good teams make you pay when you leave it up.”

Marvin Ridge tagged White for all of its runs in the first two innings. In the bottom of the first, Chandler Nikodemski lashed a two-out, run-scoring double to the gap in left center. An inning later, the Mavericks scored on DH Cory Parr’s soft line drive to center and again when White balked home a run.

Then the game got a little unsettling. Parr was on third base with one away when teammate Alex LeShock bounced a ground ball back to the box. White fielded it cleanly and fired a strike to catcher Ryan Bearden ahead of the charging baserunner, who didn’t slide but forcefully collided with Bearden. That brought Cauble storming out of the dugout for an explanation.

“The umpire said the guy didn’t try to run over the catcher,” was all he heard. “That was it.”

That set Cauble off, and for his effort he was told to stay in the dugout. Meanwhile Carson inched back into the game with two runs off junior right-hander Jason Cornatzer in the top of the third.

Blackwelder was hit by a pitch and White legged out an infield hit, putting two runners aboard with none out. Teammate Brandon Mock hit into a force-out, but an infield error produced the Cougars’ first run. After Bearden was hit with a pitch, Brandon Newton delivered a two-out RBI-single to left.

It was the only noise Carson made against Cornatzer, a 6-foot-6 master moundsman who went the distance. He scattered six singles — three of them stayed on the infield — struck out nine, walked one and gained his eighth win in nine decisions.

“He’s a strike-thrower,” Mennitt said after Cornatzer’s 96-pitch symphony. “He’s got a lot of downward plane, and that makes him tough.”

He was toughest in the Carson sixth inning. The Cougars had runners at second and third with two out when Blackwelder objected to a borderline 2-1 strike call and was immediately tossed out of the game. That brought the red-faced Cauble out for another no-holds-barred confrontation with the plate umpire, who ordered Carson’s long-time coach back to the bus.

It got even wilder when substitute batter Tanner Christy stepped in for Blackwelder and took a called third strike on a breaking ball that was ruled to have caught the outside corner. Christy exploded and had to be restrained by teammates near the Carson dugout.

Emotionally spent, the Cougars were retired in order in the top of the seventh.

“I’m proud of our guys for fighting their butts off,” Cauble said afterward. “If you look in their faces right now, all you see is hurt, so you know it meant something to them. You just hate when it’s decided this way.”

Carson               002 000 0 — 2  6  3

Marvin Ridge   120 000 x — 3  8  3

WP — Jason Cornatzer (8-1). LP — Owen White (6-4).