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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Carpenter steps up to plate for Lyon College

Thursday, May 13, 2010

There's no doubt that making the leap from playing high school baseball to taking the diamond as a college baseball player has the potential to be a pressure-packed and nerve-wracking affair for some.

But dealing with stuff like that can't be a big deal for Cave City standout pitcher and outfielder Dalton Carpenter.

He's been chewing up and spitting out pressure-packed moments for four years now.

Just ask his high school baseball coach, Jamie King.

"Late in Dalton's ninth-grade year, he really hadn't gotten much playing time. And we were going up to Izard County for a game and my seniors asked who was pitching today," King said. "I said, 'Dalton Carpenter is.' We'd won 25 or 26 games in a row at that point, so that was a big deal to the seniors and there were like, 'Are you kidding? A freshman?' But I told them he'd get the job done and he did. His first victory as a (Cave City varsity) pitcher was at Izard County and I know that's a special memory for Dalton."

As for Carpenter's recollection of that afternoon on the mound in Brockwell?

"I remember the last thing Coach King said to me was, 'Just calm down, you've got one of the best defenses in the state behind you.' And then the first pitch I threw, we made an error," laughed Carpenter. "So that was kind of ironic right there. But after that, we cleaned it up and ended up having a good game."

That Cave City squad went on to post a 34-2 record, the best in the school's history.

And now, Carpenter is moving on to the collegiate level, to play baseball for the Lyon College Scots next fall.

Carpenter signed a letter of intent May 4 in a ceremony inside the Cave City gymnasium. Lyon College won out for Carpenter's services over Oklahoma Wesleyan, a school currently coached by former Lyon College skipper Kirk Kelley.

But while Kelley is no longer at Lyon College, Tony Roepcke is.

Roepcke took over the managing duties at Lyon from Kelley, after serving as a longtime assistant coach at the college. And Carpenter played American Legion baseball for both Kelley and Roepcke, making the jump to Batesville a natural move.

"Coaching him for so long like I have ... you notice the heart and passion that he plays with. That's the first thing with Dalton that catches your eye," Roepcke said "He has a real understanding of the game and he played under Coach Kelley, my mentor, for many years, so his knowledge of the game is a big factor in Dalton's game. He understands the system we have in at Lyon College and that should put him a step ahead of everybody else to begin with."

One thing's for sure -- the Scots are adding a naturally-gifted athlete to their fold. In addition to playing baseball, Carpenter also quarterbacked the Cave City football team, leading the Cavemen to their first-ever district title and second-ever trip to the Class 3A playoffs this past fall.

On the mound for Cave City this spring, Carpenter is a perfect 6-0 with a 2.80 earned-run average. At the plate, Carpenter is hitting .425 with 33 RBIs.

"He's not a flamethrower, but he understands how to get you out and keep hitters off balance," said Roepcke. "And in the field, he's a real hard-nosed ballplayer. He's not going to make every play, but he's going to give you the effort to make every play. That's all a coach is looking for -- a kid that will give you his best effort and has the skills to do it. I'm happy we can provide him the opportunity to showcase those skills. Dalton will get an opportunity on the mound and in the outfield. And I have no doubt he'll be successful at both spots."

Cave City has managed to develop itself into a consistent power on the baseball diamond over the course of the last decade and players like Carpenter are responsible for maintaining the tradition carved out of the classes before them.

"Dalton's been a big part of our program," said King. "He's been a three-year starter, either in the outfield or on the mound. His ability speaks for itself, but the main thing he brings is heart and soul. He's a leader through his actions and words. The young kids go to him to ask questions, so he's a mentor to them. He'll leave a big void for us to fill, not just athletically, but in all aspects of the game."

That sense of building upon the hard work and sweat of those that came before is not lost on Carpenter, either.

"Cave City baseball is built on tradition and the past six or seven years, we've really been a force in our conferences," he said. "So more than anything, I'll really miss the tradition here and being a part of Caveman baseball."

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