High school baseball: New hurlers, but Carson may still be good
Carson baseball preview
By Mike London
Coach: Chris Cauble (13th season at Carson, 216-112). Coached 7 seasons at West Rowan, overall record 352-167. No. 1 in county history in high school head-coaching wins.
Key returners: OFs Luke Barringer and CP Pyle, p/3B Cole Hales, C Garett Alewine
Key addition: Transfer SS Zeb Burns
Key losses: Maddux Holshouser, Cameron Prugh and Owen White were starting infielders and the top 3 pitchers. White, a second-round draft pick, was the best pitcher and best hitter in Carson history.
2018 record: 24-6, 9-1 (1st in 3A North Piedmont Conference)
Playoffs: Lost to Crest in 4th round of playoffs.
2019: 2-1 (lost to Davie, beat Mount Pleasant twice)
CHINA GROVE — Coach Chris Cauble didn’t get to be the all-time wins leader in Rowan County by being a pessimist.
Cauble acknowledges this will be a rebuilding season on the mound for the Cougars, but he insists that it doesn’t have to be a down season.
“We lost Owen White, we lost a Division I lefty (Maddux Holshouser), and we lost a third guy (Cameron Prugh) who could have pitched in college if he’d chosen to do that,” Cauble said. “We lost three big-time arms, but I feel like we’ve still got adequate arms, good defense and good enough offense.”
Losing White, who won player of the year and pitcher of the year accolades at the county, conference and state levels, changes a lot of things at Carson. He was a second-round draft pick by the Texas Rangers. In a phenomenal four-year career, White broke the Carson records for hits, runs, RBIs, doubles, wins and strikeouts. He tied a few more records. He was an army of one.
White led the Cougars to a championship season in 2018, and Carson logged 79 wins during his four years. White was the winning pitcher 32 times. He also was a quality shortstop when he didn’t pitch. Carson has to try to replace him by committee.
Besides giving Carson a superb pitching staff, Prugh and Maddux Holshouser were offensive contributors. Fast outfielders Clayton Gilmore and Brycen Holshouser also graduated, leaving two more holes in the lineup.
Still, no one is feeling sorry for Carson. The Cougars have two-thirds of last summer’s starting Rowan County American Legion outfield in Luke Barringer and Cameron “CP” Pyle. That’s a good place to start a contending team. Pyle often manned second base for the Cougars as a freshman, but now they’ll need him in center field full-time. Barringer, Carson’s big left fielder, has signed with Catawba.
“Barringer has tools, a lot of power, good speed and a good arm,” Cauble said. “And he’s really improved as far as playing the outfield.”
Pyle, a football running back, is a lead-off type with unusual quickness. Barringer will probably be the No. 3 hitter. In an early game this season, Barringer pounded two doubles and a triple. He launched six homers last season and drove in a team-leading 25 runs.
Also returning is catcher Garrett Alewine. He’ll be starting for the third year and will anchor Carson’s defense.
“Alewine is actually a good pitcher, but he’s probably too valuable behind the plate to take him away from there,” Cauble said. “He throws well and excels at blocking pitches. We couldn’t ask for a better catcher.”
Alewine also gets clutch hits and drove in 14 runs last season.
Coker signee Cole Hales will be a huge part of what happens this season. He’s the returning starter at third base and brings a gold glove to that position, but he’s also being counted on as the No. 1 pitcher. He’s not big, but he’s competitive and has good stuff.
Hales has pitched infrequently for the Carson varsity because of the people in front of him, but he had overwhelming success (11-0) during a Carson Junior Legion run to the state tournament in Swansboro.
Also possessing starting experience is the new shortstop Zeb Burns. He played that position for West Rowan last year.
“He’s a tremendous athlete and he earned the respect of his teammates with the way he played for us in the fall,” Cauble said. “He’s fit in well.”
Carson is counting on 6-foot-4 senior Deacon Wike as the No. 2 pitcher behind Hales. Like Hales, Wike is a senior who’s waited his turn. Cauble was impressed with what Wike showed in the fall and his first start this season was a win. Wike also swings a pretty good bat and can play first base.
Logan Rogers, a junior, played some for the varsity last year. He had eight hits and won a game on the mound. The lefty probably will be the third pitcher. He’s also a candidate for the vacancies at first base and right field.
Dandre Wilkerson is a potential right fielder as well. He’s an athletic football player with a strong arm and he’ll add to Carson’s power and speed.
Aaron Misenheimer enters the season as the new second baseman and is also a pitcher.
Ryan Street will pitch some and will probably be the third baseman when Hales pitches.
Michael Bostian is another pitching candidate and the backup catcher.
Other helpful players are going to be sophomore first baseman Jake Harris, lefty-swinging outfielders Blane Roberts and Garrett Early, and sophomore outfielder/pitcher Dylan Driver.
Obviously when you lose starters like White, Prugh, Gilmore. Maddux Holshouser and Brycen Holshouser in one class, everyone expects a major step back, but Cauble has won a lot of games for a long time.
“Well, it’s not like we padded our schedule with any easy wins,” Cauble said. “For us to do well, for us to have the kind of season we want to have, we’re going to have to beat some really good teams. I believe our guys are ready for that challenge.”
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