CMS season to remember: Undefeated, untied, unscored upon
Undefeated. Untied. Unscored upon.
Carrington Middle School’s boys of spring head into summer vacation having made a lofty ambition a reality.
During this year’s preseason baseball tryouts, Carrington coach Chris Wagner and assistant Aubrey Pruitt were sizing up the talent pool, particularly its pitching potential.
“We only allowed six runs last year (2012), so we were trying to come up with goals to improve on last year, and (Pruitt) said with the guys we’ve got, we could go the season without allowing a run,” Wagner said.
When the season ended, the final score was Carrington 209, Opponents 0, according to Wagner’s scorebook.
Carrington’s season-long shutout translated into a 12-0 record and a Durham Athletic Conference title.
“Our pitching was so dominant,” Wagner said. “We had nine no-hitters (and six of them) perfect games.
“The crazy thing is in this whole thing is we used 11 different pitchers to not allow a run. It’s not like we sent the same guy out there every night.”
The mercy rule that ends games in middle school kicks in when a team is ahead by 15 runs after three innings or ten runs after five innings, meaning Carrington never played a whole game. The Cougars were that strong.
“I actually told Northern’s coach that we could 10-run their jayvee team,” Wagner said, referring to nearby Northern High School. “There’s no doubt. ... We played 12 games, and we played exactly 36 innings.”
Of the 108 outs Carrington recorded, 100 were by strikeout, according to Wagner.
Carrington went undefeated in 2012, too, and while official records are not publicly available, Wagner believes the Cougars’ winning streak stands at 54 games.
“We’ve lost seven times in the 19 years that I’ve been here,” Wagner said.
Wagner was a longtime assistant coach at Carrington under Derek Dickerson before moving into the skipper’s seat a couple of year’s ago. David Cline is the one who built the Carrington program, Wagner said.
By the time kids show up for baseball tryouts at Carrington, most have come up through Bull City Little League — formerly the North Durham Little League — where players like current Northern High pitcher Griffin Baker idolized the Carrington stars while Baker & Co. were still in elementary school.
“I grew up watching the big alumni from Carrington,” Griffin said.
Griffin’s dad, Patrick Baker, said his son was among many budding ballplayers whose goal was to become good enough to play for Carrington.
“This was in part to be prepared to inherit and continue Carrington’s legacy of excellence,” said Baker, Durham’s city attorney. “I coached Griffin’s travel-ball team beginning in their fourth-grade year. Six of those kids played at Carrington. They were more than prepared for those seventh-grade tryouts. Another group of dads coached the starters on this year’s team when they were in third grade.
“Kids don’t begin to prepare for a middle school tryout that is three to four years away unless they believe the program is very special.”
Griffin Baker recalled his days at Carrington when the Cougars still more or less were untouchable, so good that Wagner decided to divide his roster and have the guys mimic games in practice in order to ensure at least some meaningful development on the diamond.
That was the case this past season, too — Carrington versus Carrington.
“They were amazing games,” Wagner said about the intrasquad scrimmages. “They were the best games we played all year. ... Parents and fans would come.”
On April 10, a player from Githens Middle School reached third base because of a Carrington error. It was the only time an opposing runner reached third all season.
“And he got picked off, I believe,” Wagner said.
Two Carrington opponents’ batters hit would-be singles to right field, only to get thrown out at first by Drew Dickerson.
“He had a very good arm,” Wagner said.
There was no pressure to preserve the season-long shutout, Wagner said. The fans rallied around the team, and the guys just kept playing ball, he said.
“This was probably the most fun that we’ve had as a team,” Wagner said. “We could have scored 500 runs. Most games were 18 or 19 to nothing before we took the field. Our starters rarely played more than an inning.
“We had one team quit before they actually got three outs against us. It was 21 to nothing in the first inning, and the coach just came out and said, ‘We can’t get you out.’ So we cleared the bases and let them go up to hit, to send all nine guys to the plate.”
Every now and then, a Carrington opponent managed to get on base. Most of the time, though, it was one of Carrington’s pitchers playing toss with the catcher.
“It’s probably the best group of eighth graders that I’ve seen come through here,” Wagner said. “They look like high school players. Our center fielder is 6 feet 3. Our catcher is 6-1.
“They’re big. They’re fast. They’re smart.”
Carrington feeds into Riverside and Northern high schools, which somewhat divides Carrington’s talent pool. Still, Riverside won the PAC-6 4-A baseball title this season and was joined in the state playoffs by PAC-6 No. 2 seed Northern.
What if Carrington’s stars all played on the same team in high school?
“That’s actually pretty close to happening at Northern,” Griffin Baker said. “(That) question will definitely be answered next year.”
“This group is entirely going to Northern,” Wagner said, talking about eighth graders like Spencer Smith, a five-tool player for Carrington.
“Spencer Smith could have been all-conference in high school this year,” Wagner said. “Any position on the field.”
Smith and some of his fellow Carrington stars are headed to Northern to join the likes of Griffin Baker, Pete Vurnakes, Jacob Bierman, A.J. Bumpass and Mack Fenlon.
“You pour this group of eight (Carrington) kids into that, by their junior year they should compete against the top teams in the state,” Wagner said.
In terms of goal setting for the next campaign, Carrington will have a tough time topping not allowing a single run for an entire season.
“I hadn’t started thinking about that yet,” Wagner said.
What is fairly certain is that Carrington will reload. The Cougars always reload.
CMS SOFTBALL REIGNS SUPREME, TOO
There’s something going on in North Durham, particularly regarding the proclivity of its young people to put bats on balls, because Carrington’s softball team just completed its own undefeated season.
Carrington’s 11-0 softball squad, like the school’s baseball team, won both its regular–season title and conference tournament.
“I’ve been here for 22 years, and I can’t remember softball losing,” Carrington athletics director Candace Odell said.
Odell said she knows for sure that Carrington’s softball team hasn’t lost a game in seven years, and she’s pretty confident that the winning streak extends well past that.
Baseball gets top billing at Carrington, but softball has plenty of traction, too.
“It has a lot to do with the community involvement,” Odell said.
— John McCann