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All-County Baseball: Carson’s Cauble handled high expectations

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

CHINA GROVE — Chris Cauble is a unique figure in Rowan County baseball history — the only person to win the Mark Norris Memorial Award as county player of the year and also to be named coach of the year.

Cauble, an East Rowan graduate who was Rowan County Male Athlete of the Year in 1985 as well as the Norris Award winner, is the Post’s Rowan County Coach of the Year for the fifth time, but for the first time since 2013.

When he was coaching at West Rowan, Cauble shared the award in 2001 with South’s Linn Williams and East’s Jeff Safrit. Cauble won again in 2004 when his Falcons reached the 3A state championship series. Cauble moved with principal Henry Kluttz from West to Carson when the school opened for the 2006-07 school year and remains the only head baseball coach in school history. He previously won coach of the year honors at Carson in 2009, as well as 2013.

While he has become synonymous with Carson, Cauble holds the distinction of being part of two of the greatest teams in county history at two other schools. He was an assistant coach for Jeff Safrit at East when the Mustangs went 29-1 and won the 3A state title in 1995. Cauble’s 2004 Falcons went 29-5.

Carson went  24-6 this season, with pitchers Owen White and Maddux Holshouser combining for 19 victories and just two losses.

This was a year in which Carson was supposed to be good with White and Holshouser taking turns on the mound, but there are always obstacles and challenges that arise along the way. Some of the most talented teams  in county history fell well short of expectations. Several lost in the first round of the playoffs.  Success is never a given.

But Carson did what it was supposed to do in 2018. It not only won a bunch of games, it won championships. The Cougars won a conference regular season championship (North Piedmont) for the second time and won a conference tournament for the fourth time. They also won three playoff games, including a huge road win at Marvin Ridge in the third round. This was the second team in Carson history to make the fourth round. Cauble took a similar team to the fourth round in 2014. That one had Dillon Atwell, John Daugherty and Colton Laws doing the bulk of the pitching. Atwell was county pitcher of the year. Daugherty was county player of the year. Laws became a draft pick.

While the pitching staff  returned this season, Cauble had to locate replacements for a couple of graduated infielders. Third baseman Ben Shoaf had been first team all-county in 2017, while second baseman Logan Ridenhour had been second team.

Cauble found his guys. Freshman C.P. Pyle played second base frequently and was charged with only one error all season. Junior Cole Hales didn’t hit like Shoaf, but he proved to be a Gold Glove third baseman.

Cauble also had to guide his team through a rough patch that included early losses to Mount Pleasant, Mooresville and Myers Park. White, Hales and No. 3 pitcher Cameron Prugh were just coming off the basketball court, and Carson sunk to  1-3 after losing to Myers Park, 6-1, on March 5.

But  you learn more from losing than winning.  You learn how to keep going through adversity. On March 9, the season turned around when White and Prugh combined to shut out Robinson.

Four days later, Carson won a character-building marathon in a rematch with Robinson. Four hurlers, led by Holshouser and Prugh, shut out the Bulldogs for 13 innings.

Carson’s only loss between March 5 and April 17 was a 10-2 setback  against West Forsyth in an Easter tournament championship game in Kannapolis, but Cauble kept his eyes focused on the main prize — the conference championship. He didn’t use White on the mound in that tournament. He let him rest. That decision proved to be a prudent, big-picture decision.

White pitched both regular season games against West Rowan, which had won three straight conference titles. Carson won 13-0 and 9-0.

East Rowan, always a contender, beat White and Carson, 1-0, on April 17 behind Hayden Setzer, but Carson went 9-1 to take the conference and White handled East in the conference tournament championship game.

Then Carson added three playoff wins to tie the school record for wins set by the 2013 squad and matched by the 2014 team. After that 1-3 start, Carson went 23-3.

“We were always well-prepared and you have to give our coaching staff the credit for that,” White said. “We had some growing pains early, but in the second half of the season we were a family and everything clicked for us. We cemented. We weren’t just pitching well in the second half, we were hitting well and we were playing defense well. We were a very good team.”

Cauble wasn’t Owen White, but he was a really good player, better than  the youngsters around the county may realize. He was the catcher for the 1984 Rowan County American Legion state champs and he was a standout at East Carolina. The legend that he once threw out Florida State’s Deion Sanders trying to steal second base is more than a legend. It’s a true story.

Cauble lettered three years at ECU (1987-89) and was a first team all-conference player in 1987. He graduated in 1990, came back to Rowan County. He coached at Knox Middle School, East, Concord (his first head coaching job) and West before heading to Carson, where he is enjoying a historic career.

His 136 wins with the Falcons make him the winningest West baseball coach ever. He’s 216-112 at Carson. His 352-167 record as a head baseball coach in Rowan County makes him No. 1 all-time. He has 57 more wins than the second-place guy (Bill Kesler).

Cauble’s teams have won 68 percent of the time, and that’s including some challenging years when he was getting the Carson program started.

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