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Community R-6 near perfect in 8-0 win over state-ranked Pilot Grove

By Jeremy Jacob, Sports Editor

Community R-6 went for perfection on Tuesday.

Community R-6 vs. Pilot Grove photo gallery

The Trojans needed a high-quality game at home in their Central Activity Conference meeting with Class 1 No. 10 Pilot Grove, and they won 8-0. Mason Carroll led Community by throwing a one-hitter that was lost with one out in the seventh inning, as he struck out twelve and allowed three baserunners in seven innings.

Carroll said it wasn’t as easy as the team made it look, meaning the Trojans (10-7, 5-2 CAC) played well for the first time in three games. Community was coming off an error-filled 11-6 loss to conference rival Cairo and a two-goal performance in a 3-2 loss the previous night at North Shelby.

“We had to win a game at some point,” Carroll said. “We haven’t played well in recent games. Last night was bad. Finally we came out and played ball.”

“It was the best game we’ve played all year,” head coach Joel Krato said. “Carroll threw phenomenally. It was a big time and someone was needed to step up, so who else but Mason Carroll?

This wasn’t the first challenging opponent Community has faced this season, as it was the third match against a CAC team that was ranked in the state at the time. The Trojans lost 3-0 to New Franklin and then to Cairo, which has one loss in the CAC along with New Franklin and Pilot Grove (9-8, 6-1 CAC).

Carroll pitched two games against Cairo, dealing with an increased pitch count after a long first inning that consumed more than 30 pitches. The all-state pitcher devoured Pilot Grove in 82 pitches, giving up an outfield error, a walk on a 3-2 pitch and a dribbler up the middle that deflected off him.

“It was my high mentality. We had nothing to lose here in the conference,” Carroll said. “I just went out there and threw.”

Catcher Lane Carter has been catching Carroll all season and has never seen Carroll in such good condition while behind the plate. Carter even thought this translated to the moment when Carroll stood at the plate, pointing to his home run to center field in the eighth inning, making it 8-0.

“He was more confident today than I’ve ever seen,” Carter said. “He was ready to throw. There were a few games last fall where he was really confident. He struck out once last night and was upset about it, but today he hit a couple pop-ups and then tied the score and got one.”

Krato said before the match that Carroll had a sore bicep, so Community wasn’t entirely sure how long Carroll could last. Carroll confirmed that he had a sore bicep that persisted during the game, leading Carter to joke that Carroll might have to be sore every game he pitched.

“No. I didn’t care,” Carroll said when asked if he felt restricted at all. “I didn’t feel it until I got into the dugout every now and then.”

Krato said Pilot Grove may have been trying to do too much at the plate after Community took a 3-0 lead with five straight hits in the third inning. Eli Johnson then hit a two-RBI home run in the second, Lane Carter’s bunt brought home two runners in the fifth and Carroll launched one in the eighth inning.

Pilot Grove “never caught on” to Community’s unchanged pitching strategy, Krato said, as the Tigers threw to pitches outside the strike zone. It also helps to have an ‘unsung hero’ behind the board.

“Lane Carter steals a lot of plays,” Krato said. “That’s something we’re constantly working on: getting our eyes behind the ball and catching it. You’ll see a lot of kids turn the glove over, catch it outside their body and it looks like a ball the whole time. It was a phenomenal job by Lane to steal a bunch of strikes, you could tell they were nervous.”

Krato said Carter does a lot of things he doesn’t get credit for, including his bunt on a double-squeeze play in the fifth inning. First, Community created a second and third situation for Carter after his brother Aaron stole second place. Then Lane Carter laid one down to easily score Mason Rohan and then a sliding Aaron Carter.

“We tried (this year) and got it wrong twice,” Krato said. “The most important thing is that the person in second place is not held down, so they get a huge lead, and they also go onto the field (along with Rohan in third place). By the time the pitcher or whoever picks up the ball, you should be on third and scoring easily. We probably practice that twenty times a week, because you never know when it goes out and is used.”

Carter said he was concerned during the bunt because there was a slider coming his way and not the usual fastballs he sees low in the order, but he pushed through it.

“Krato said we were going to steal fake bunts, so I pulled it back in the catcher’s face and (Aaron Carter) easily took second,” Carter said. “He had already told us to squeeze, so all I had to do was get it down from wherever it was. He threw me a slider high, and I panicked for a moment, but got it down.

Krato said the piece was performed well but not perfectly, and that the dominant performance Community was not perfect either. He said Aaron Carter could have made a better jump to not make the game so close at home.

In order for Community to beat quality competition at the end of the season, Krato said he wants the Trojans to strive for perfection in this game as well as in every game.

“I want perfection, and perfection will lead to postseason wins. We’re going to aim for this, and if we fall short, it’s still better than aiming for here and getting it,” Krato said as he held his hand to his head and moved down a little further. “It should be more fuel for, ‘We could do this all the time, and we don’t.’ We did that against a top-10 team in the state that could potentially win the conference.