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So close: Carson one run short of tournament victory

By David Shaw
sports@salisburypost.com

KANNAPOLIS — Carson’s baseball team walked out of Intimidators Stadium Monday night with an impressive piece of hardware —  just not the one it came for.

Two days after winning an F&M Bank Baseball Classic semifinal in walk-off fashion, the Cougars were served a bowl of their own chowder when junior Cam Prugh issued a bases-loaded walk in the last of the seventh inning, securing Lake Norman’s 3-2 championship-game victory.

“We put ourselves in position to win the tournament by taking those first two games,” coach Chris Cauble said after Carson (14-7) had its four-game winning streak snapped. “And even though we played a really good game tonight, we came up one run short at the end.”

Prugh, a junior right-hander, made it three well-pitched games by Carson starters in four days. He allowed two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings while scattering five singles and a double. He walked only two batters — the last two he faced — and one of those was intentional.

 “Second place isn’t what we wanted,” Prugh said after an efficient, 83-pitch effort. “But we’ll take it with a grain of salt. We’ll take this experience into the rest of our season.”

Lake Norman (17-3) swallowed the tournament one bite at a time, opening with victories against defending champion South Rowan on Friday and Mount Pleasant in Saturday’s semifinals. Last night senior Alex Pfeil and junior Sam Zayciek combined on a 5-hitter, turning those smiles the Cougars arrived with upside down.

“Crazy game,” first-baseman Ben Shoaf said with a post-game shrug. “We fought our butts off the whole tournament and hit some balls really hard, just right at people. It hurts to walk away with second place when you know you could have had first.”

It was a swiftly played game, completed in about 90 minutes. Pfeil pitched as though he had a roast in the oven, delivering only four pitches to retire Carson in order in the top of the first. Prugh, in contrast, found himself a run down by the time he had thrown five pitches in the bottom of the first — victimized by three consecutive base hits.

“They were aggressive at the plate and on the bases,” said Cauble. “Cam did a nice job, his pitches were down in the zone where he wanted them. We felt fortunate to get out of than inning down only 1-0.”

Carson escaped further damage when shortstop Owen White initiated an inning-ending double play, then tied the score with a two-out rally in the top of the third. No. 9 hitter Cole Hales drew a walk, moved to second base when Logan Ridenhour chopped a single into left field and scored when White steered an RBI-single into center.

The Wildcats reclaimed the lead in the fourth. Lefty-swinging slugger Dylan Rings opened the inning with long double into the right-field corner. He was replaced by pinch-runner Cameron Lawson, who tagged and advanced to third on long flyout by J.P. Perez. When right-fielder Clayton Gilmore’s relay strayed into the third-base dugout, Lake Norman had a 2-1 lead.

“Credit their hitting,” Prugh said. “I was hitting my spots, but those were the pitches they hit. I got away with a lot of mistakes, but it seemed in times of need, I could get them out.”

Carson knotted the score 2-2 in the top of the sixth when Shoaf jerked a double down the left-field line and scored on Gilmore’s one-out single. Facing Zayciek an inning later, the Cougars put runners at first and second with two away, only to be foiled when White lined out to center.

 “I knew Owen was going to get a hit there,” Cauble said. “He couldn’t have hit it any better than that, just straight at the guy. With your best hitter at the plate, I’ll take that situation again and again.”

Lake Norman scored the winning run with one out in the last of the seventh. Two singles and a sacrifice bunt put runners at second and third — prompting Cauble to order pinch-hitter Jay Sadoff walked intentionally, setting up a force play at home or a potential double play up the middle. Chase Bishop, batting eighth the Wildcats’ lineup, ended the game when he walked on a 3-1 pitch.

“I’ll never complain about an umpire’s call,” Prugh said. “There’s no reason to get mad. I was just trying to throw it over the plate, but didn’t get it there.”

Instead, the Cougars got a runner-up trophy — and a worthy experience.

NOTES: Carson (11-5 in the SPC) returns to conference action April 25 at Hickory Ridge, those closes the regular season two days later against visiting Cox Mill. … White and teammate Luke Barringer were named to the all-tournament team, along with South Rowan’s Matthew Donahue, Salisbury’s Griffin Myers and Blaine Shellhorn, and A.L. Brown’s Matt Baucom and Robby Clarke.

Carson                 001 001 0 — 2   5   1

Lake Norman     100 100 1 — 3   6   1

WP — Pfeil (2-1). LP — Prugh (1-2).

Leading hitters — CHS: Gilmore 1-for-3, RBI; Shoaf 1-for-3, RS. LN: Rings 2-for-3, Perez 1-for-2, RBI, RS.

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