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High school baseball: Historic win for Carson

Cougars move into Western final series

Carson pitcher Deacon Wike fired a shutout against North Gaston on Friday night, in the 3A state baseball playoffs. … Photo by Wayne Hinshaw, for the Salisbury Post

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

CHINA GROVE —  Every pitch that Deacon Wike fired and every rocket that left the powerful bat of Luke Barringer had plenty of history attached.

With Wike tossing a shutout and Barringer walloping two homers, Carson’s baseball team blasted North Gaston, 10-0, on Friday evening, in a surprisingly lopsided fourth-round game in the 3A state playoffs. It was a mercy-rule romp that ended in the bottom of the sixth when reserve Blane Roberts drove in the 10th run for the Cougars.

“They were better than I expected them to be,” North Gaston coach Jesse Martin said. “They’re the best hitting team we’ve seen this year. And their pitcher competed and threw strikes. They’re a really good ball club.”

Carson’s consistent program had reached the fourth round twice before, but it fell to Piedmont in 2014 and to Crest last season. This time, the Cougars broke through.

“Every game before this one in the playoffs was a real nail-biter,” Carson head coach Chris Cauble said. “But I’d told our guys that if we ever put it all together, we can be a very good team. Well, tonight we did. We put it all together.”

As awesome as Barringer was, Wike was the key to victory. A tall, lean right-hander headed to Catawba, Wike (9-1) threw with confidence and poise. He gave up a base hit to start the game, but the eighth pitch he threw in the first inning was his biggest. It resulted in a ground ball that shortstop Zeb Burns fielded near the second-base bag, and the Cougars had an easy twin killing. Wike never looked back.

Neither did top-seeded Carson (27-2), which owns the school record for wins in a season.

“After that double play, we definitely had the momentum,” Carson catcher Garrett Alewine said. “A base hit wasn’t the best way to start the game, but I was never worried about Deacon. I thought he pitched loose for such a big game, and we played loose as a team. This might be the best game we’ve played all year.”

The biggest single swing Carson produced on a 13-hit night came with Barringer standing in the on-deck circle. Lead-off man Cole Hales started the bottom of the first with a line drive over the head of the right fielder. It was a stand-up double for Hales, who punched the air as he stood on second base and exhorted his teammates to follow his example.

When Barringer, a Catawba signee, followed with a whistling single for the first of his four hits and four RBIs, Carson led 1-0.

“That first inning meant so much to how this game went,” Wike said. “We get the double play and then we score first. That got the energy flowing.”

North Gaston (22-6) put two men on base in the top of the second, but Carson first baseman Logan Rogers fielded a hot grounder near the bag to end the inning.

Then Carson struck for three more runs in the bottom of the second. Dylan Driver’s single to left got things started.  Consecutive two-out hits by Hales, Barringer and Rogers plated runs for a 4-0 lead.

“The pitcher (Jairo Osio) who started for them was not the one we expected to see,” Hales said.  “Coach Cauble told me before the game he really needed me on base a lot tonight, and I was getting some pitches in the zone to hit. I was reading the curveballs early tonight, just really seeing the ball well.”

After Wike breezed through the top of the third, 1-2-3, Carson blew it open with four more runs. Barringer’s two-out, two-run homer to cap the inning was the blow that finished North Gaston. Even Cauble relaxed a little bit as Barringer’s homer cleared the fence in left.

“I didn’t think I hit it all that well, but then I saw the outfielders kept going back and it went out,” Barringer said. “It was a great night. You can’t really measure momentum, but it’s a real thing.  We got it, and we kept it. It helped a lot to be at home because our fans were making noise.”

Wike allowed only an infield single in the fourth. The fifth was another 1-2-3 inning.

“I thought the umpire had a tough zone, especially early, but I just made my mind up, once we got the lead, to pound the zone,” Wike said. “I was going to let them hit it, and let our defense do the work.”

Wike, who became a member of Carson’s rotation for the first time as a senior, is a young man blessed with patience. He allowed four singles, walked one and struck out five. He threw 83 pitches, 53 for strikes.

“Honestly, he really wasn’t unusually good tonight,” Alewine said. “He was just himself. He threw strikes, he located, he kept them off-balance. That’s what Deacon does.”

When Barringer destroyed a pitch deep into the night to start the bottom of the sixth, he owned a two-homer game. It was 9-0.

“I was running hard to first base, and I heard (first base coach) Brett Mulkey say, ‘Attaway!’ and that’s when I knew it was gone,” Barringer said.

The inning continued. Roberts eventually drilled a hit to score C.P. Pyle with the game-ending run.

“Roberts really likes to play, but he hasn’t gotten to bat that much,” Barringer said. “Everyone was really happy for him.”

While Hales. a Coker signee, and Barringer combined for seven hits in eight trips to the plate at the top of the lineup, Driver had two hits out of the No. 8 spot. Four more Cougars chipped in with a hit apiece.

Barringer bumped his RBI total for the season to 34.

“Tonight was a chance to make history — and that’s what we did,” Hales said.

Cauble, who logged his 379th head-coaching win in Rowan County, knows the history. He’s been around for a lot of it. He was an assistant coach on the Jeff Safrit-directed powerhouse at East Rowan that went 29-1 and stormed to the 1995 3A title. Cauble was the head coach of the terrific 2004 West Rowan team that went 29-5 but lost in three games in the 2004 3A state championship series at N.C. State to West Brunswick.

Now Cauble’s current team, with no Division I players, but with a lot of cohesion, is close to moving into the company of those legendary squads, both in terms of total wins and in terms of playoff success.

“Pitching and defense are the fortes of this team, but most of this season we haven’t hit with the kind of power that Jeff’s East team did or my West team did,” Cauble said. “But tonight, our guys reminded me of those teams a little bit. We swung the bats to go with our pitching and defense, and we made some history. The important thing for us to keep in mind now is that this isn’t the end of the road. There are more games to come, there’s a lot more we can do, and there are going to be some dogfights.”

The regional championship series is best-of-three. As the higher seed, Carson will be at home for Game 1 on Tuesday and will play on the road at Marvin Ridge, a familiar nemesis, in Game 2, probably on Thursday. If Game 3 is necessary, it would be played next weekend at Carson. Cauble wasn’t sure yet if that would be on Friday or Saturday.

North Gaston    000   000    — 0   4   4

Carson                134   002     — 10  13  0

W — Wike (9-1). L — J. Osio.

HR — Carson: Barringer 2 (6).

Leading hitters — Carson: Barringer 4-for-4, 4 RBIs; Hales 3-for-4, 2 RBIs; Driver 2-for-3.

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