Junior Legion Baseball: Hales pitches complete game in Carson victory
CHINA GROVE — Cole Hales did some dancing — on the bases, as well as on the mound — and he sparked Carson’s Junior American Legion team to a 9-3 victory against Davidson County on Sunday night.
Davidson County won the state championship in 2015 but was eliminated by Carson (24-5) in the decisive game of their best-of-three, first-round series.
The biggest play came after Hales walked to start the bottom of the fourth in a 3-all game. Hales then tried to steal second. A strong throw beat him to the base by a lot, but when he arrived at the bag, he took evasive action.
“He was waiting to tag me, so I had to try something,” Hales said. “I jumped over his glove.”
Hales was deemed safe after his improvisational maneuver, prompting an argument. It turned out to be a huge call, as Hales scored the tiebreaking run that put Carson ahead to stay on an error later in the inning. Chase Earnhardt’s run-scoring single gave Hales a 5-3 lead before he returned to the mound, and Carson put up four more runs in the bottom of the fifth to give Hales a safe cushion.
“Very proud of how our guys responded to the loss we had to that team on Saturday,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “No lead was ever safe against Davidson County, not the way they can swing it.”
On the mound, Hales never lost his composure, even after the visiting Braves used a walk, two hits, an error and a sacrifice fly to wipe out an early 3-0 deficit and tie the game 3-all in the top of the fourth.
“I was never that worried,” Hales said. “I just had to keep pitching my game.”
Davidson County starting pitcher Darin Spivey, a big right-hander, threw hard, but Carson took a 1-0 lead in the second when Hales punched a two-out single to right field to score Luke Barringer. Right fielder Sam Baxley cut down another runner at the plate.
Carson made it 3-0 in the third when Maddux Holshouser walked with the bases loaded and Garrett Alewine whacked a two-out, run-scoring single.
Karson Beacham, Carson’s No. 2 hitter, was the offensive catalyst. He had two singles and two walks in four trips to the plate and scored three runs.
“We didn’t do a good job with the bats when they beat us on Saturday,” Beacham said. “But tonight we kept our swings short and sweet.”
Carson’s four-run, break-it-open fifth was a wild, prolonged affair fueled by three walks and two errors. Pinch-hitter Andrew Bradshaw produced the only hit of the inning when he drove a double to deep right-center to drive in a run.
Two runs scored in the long inning on a play at the plate after Daniel Leonard grounded to third. Davidson catcher Will Herndon had to try to glove the throw home and make a sweep tag in one motion, and the ball glanced off his mitt and scooted toward the backstop.
While Carson’s offense managed 10 hits and accepted seven walks, it still wasn’t an easy game. Cauble gave a lot of the credit for the victory to Hales.
Hales stranded runners at second and third in the second inning with a strikeout and groundout, and he got another routine groundball to end the third inning with a runner at third.
“Cole was up against a really good fastball-hitting team, but he did one heck of a job,” Cauble said. “He’s a very smart pitcher and he was great at mixing his pitches up. He’s small, but he throws harder than you would think. He’s sneaky.”
Davidson County put two men on base in the seventh when a pop fly wasn’t caught in short right field and Spivey smacked a solid hit, but Hales wasn’t looking to the bullpen for help. He got the final out on a long flyball to right-center that center fielder Brycen Holshouser got a good jump on and turned into a routine play.
“Definitely, I wanted to finish it,” said Hales, a rising sophomore at Carson.
Carson will play at home tonight at 7 p.m., as it opens an Area III semifinal series against Rowan County. Concord is hosting Randolph County in the other semifinal series.
Davidson County 000 300 0 — 3 5 3
Rowan County 012 240 x — 9 10 4
W — Cole Hales. L — Darin Spivey.
Leading hitters — Davidson: Spivey 2-for-4. Carson: Karson Beacham 2-for-2, 3 runs. Chase Earnhardt 2-for-4.
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