White, Carson overpower West, clinch NPC championship

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 29, 2018

By David Shaw

MOUNT ULLA — There’s a bit of confusion as the NPC baseball season spills into overtime on Monday, but this much is certain: no one is catching pacesetter Carson.

The Cougars secured the conference championship in their final regular-season game Saturday, when they earned a sun-splashed 9-0 victory at West Rowan.

“Everyone’s been doing their job,” outfielder Brycen Holshouser said, moments after Carson (19-5, 9-1) rapped out 13 hits and blanked West for the second time this spring. “If we keep putting it on good teams like this, it could be a long ride for us.”

That’s what 12th-year coach Chris Cauble is hoping. Carson will enter next week’s conference tournament — now a four-team, two-day affair at Carson — riding a four-game winning streak with victories in 14 of its last 15.

“Going into today, we had this on our checklist,” Cauble said. “The other thing is we wanted to have a good enough record to get three or four home games in the (3A state) playoffs. We seem to make it every year, but get one home game and then go on the road. And the road has not been good to us in the playoffs.”

It was just fine yesterday. Carson’s pre-game focus was firmly on taking care of business. A loss could have created the possibility of a three-way tie for first.

“That never sits well — especially when you’ve been holding down the No. 1 spot all year,” said winning pitcher Owen White. “We knew this one game could change everything.”

Instead, White pitched the Cougars to their second league title and first since winning the NPC in 2013. The senior flamethrower utilized all corners of the plate, braiding a fat-free fastball — routinely clocked in the low 90s by the growing horde of pro scouts in attendance — with a sharp curve and a butterfly changeup. He threw five innings of two-hit ball, struck out seven and retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced.

“Hey, he’s Owen White and they got him all those runs,” losing coach Seth Graham shrugged after third-place West (12-10, 6-3) managed only three hits and committed six errors. “One run would have been enough for him today.”

Carson got its first against right-hander Olen Stamper in the top of the first inning. Cam Prugh paddled a one-out single to center field and scored when White crunched the first of his two doubles — a gapper that rolled to the fence in left-center.

“(Stamper) is a really good pitcher,” Prugh said after playing flawless shortstop and striking out the side as a reliever in the bottom of the seventh. “Good fastball, good curve. I hit the first fastball I saw that was hittable.”

White followed by tagging an oh-1 heater. “He beat me the first time with a fastball, so I didn’t think he was going to slow it down,” said White. “I squared it up and got the job done for the team.”

Carson went up 2-0 in the second when Cole Hales singled and scored two errors later. The game’s loudest swing came in the fourth inning, when Holshouser buzzed a two-out, two-run single into center, providing a 4-0 lead.

“It came in down the middle,” he said. “I just hit it back where it came from. Two runs right there meant less pressure, more comfort. We could stop worrying about everything.”

Graham wound up parading five different pitchers to the mound — including three when Carson scored four runs in the top of the fifth. Stamper yielded five runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out three and walked none, but was in trouble often. His best pitch resulted in an inning-ending double play initiated by shortstop Zeb Burns in the third.

“Olen did a good job. We just didn’t make enough plays behind him,” Graham said. “It’s been that way most of the season. Just not our day.”

Carson had at least one hit in every inning — including a seventh-inning single by pinch-hitter Zack Starnes. Defensively, third-baseman Hales made a number of fine-looking plays and robbed Stamper of a hit when gloved a wicked line drive in the sixth. Two innings earlier, Prugh dove to his left and snared a JT Fecteau missile that had eyes for center field.

“It was off the end of the bat,” Prugh explained. “Actually, I didn’t catch it very clean. It hit off the heel of my glove and got wedged between my elbow and my chest. It was a catch, but I made sure the umpire got a good look at it.”

NOTES: West was South Piedmont Conference champion the past three seasons. It concludes its regular-season with a make-up game at Statesville on Monday. Fourth-place contenders South Iredell and North Iredell also play a rescheduled game on Monday. … The opening round of the NPC tournament has been eliminated. Wednesday’s semifinals pit the Facons against second-place East Rowan at 4:30 p.m. and Carson against the No. 4 seed at 7. The championship game is scheduled Thursday night. … This was Carson’s eighth shutout of the spring. White, a likely selection when Major League Baseball holds its amateur draft June 2-4, won his seventh game.

Carson               110  241  0 — 9  13  1

West Rowan    000  000  0 — 0  3  6

WP — White (7-1). LP — Stamper (4-2).

Leading hitters — Carson: B.Holshouser 2-for-4, 2 RBIs; White 2-for-4, 2 doubles, RBI; Barringer 2-for-4. West Rowan: Stamper 1-for-3; Durham 1-for-3, double; Fecteau 1-for-3.