Junior Legion baseball: Carson ready for state tourney
Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 22, 2021
By Mike London
HIGH POINT — Rowan County, Carson, West Rowan, East Rowan and 2019 runner-up South Rowan all have fielded powerful Junior American Legion baseball teams in different years, but no Rowan team ever has returned from the state tournament carrying a championship trophy.
Carson, sponsored by Post 342, hopes to make history in the days ahead with a squad that has put up a 20-2 record. Carson outscored Davidson County and High Point 34-3 in three Area III playoff games.
Blake Cauble — a new dad, 26-year-old insurance man by day and baseball coach by night — is the head coach of the Carson squad. His father, Chris Cauble, has coached more wins than anyone in Rowan County high school history at West Rowan and Carson and is the “team manager.” This team has been so good that the veteran coach has been able to spend most of his summer at the beach. Also assisting are J.C. Alexander and Rob Hales.
This is actually Blake Cauble’s seventh season coaching Carson Junior Legion, so he got started when he was still a college student. He’s had some good teams, including the 2016 squad that was powered by youngsters Cole Hales and Luke Barringer and made the state tournament, but this appears to be the best one.
“We’re definitely having a lot of fun,” Cauble said. “The kids are playing the game very hard. When they do that, it makes it a lot easier game to coach.”
Carson began this season with low-key expectations.
“We were very nervous back in June as far as what kind of turnout we’d have this year,” Cauble said. “But then we had 32 kids try out. We had to cut some pretty decent ballplayers.”
Tryouts were June 13. The team debuted on June 17 by hammering Concord, and hasn’t looked back.
“This team can hit and we’ve been putting runs on people,” Cauble said. “We lost two games to West Rowan when we had a bunch of guys on vacations, but we 10-run-ruled West when we got everyone back. West had a good team. They would have made the state tournament most seasons, but it’s a smaller field this year with COVID.”
Carson has quite a few players who could have made an impact for Rowan County’s Senior Legion team.
Hayden Simmerson is one of the county’s rising stars as a right-handed pitcher. He pitches for a showcase team, so he’s rarely been on the mound for Carson, but he’s played first base and swung a big bat.
“We’ve had Hayden for just about every game, and he’s definitely a difference-maker,” Cauble said.
Carson also has three of the strong, up-the-middle defenders from the varsity squad that tied East Rowan for the North Piedmont Conference championship. That’s catcher Cameron Burleyson, second baseman Hunter Burris and shortstop Emory Taylor, who also is a fine pitcher.
“Burleyson’s arm has made it hard for teams to run on us,” Cauble said. “Burris and Taylor are great defensively together up the middle. They remind me of Gunnar Hogan and Julio Zubillaga when they were at Carson back in the day.”
Junior Legion success frequently leads to high school success.
“There’s definitely a correlation there,” Cauble said. “This summer has given us a good bond. Keeping guys together for a summer makes everyone better.”
Normally a double-elimination event, the Junior Legion state tournament has a different look this year. The format will be like the one used in the American Legion World Series, starting with three days of pool play. The top two from the two pools advance to Sunday’s semifinals. Semifinal winners play for the championship on Monday.
The state tournament is being conducted at three venues — Finch Field in Thomasville, Holt-Moffitt Field in Lexington, and Truist Point in High Point.
There are a number of sideshow events on Friday, including a parade and a home run derby.
Carson’s “Stripes” pool includes Matthews, Wayne County (Goldsboro) and Davidson County, with Kinston, High Point, Morehead City and Cherryville in the “Stars” pool.
Carson’s first pool game is today at 4 p.m. at Finch Field against Matthews Hooks-Orr Post 235.
N.C. Junior American Legion champions
2003 Snow Hill
2005 South Caldwell
2010 West Johnston
2011 West Johnston
2013 Mint Hill Army
2014 South Caldwell
2015 Davidson County
2016 Rutherford County
2017 South Caldwell
2019 R-S Central
2020 — COVID