With just two scrimmage games under their belts, the new-look Carson Senators open the 2013 season by meeting Elko at 4 p.m. Thursday at Ron McNutt Field.
The squad is being coached by 35-year-old Bryan Manoukian, who takes over for Cody Farnworth, who resigned after last season.
Manoukian hasn't had a great deal of time to look at his new club. Tryouts were held in late February, and the team scrimmaged Galena and Spanish Springs last weekend.
"We played 16 innings the other day and we only had one defensive error," Manoukian said. "That's a tribute to all the hard work we've put in. We've spent most of our time on pitching and defense.
"If you pitch well and play defense you have the opportunity to be in a lot of games."
Carson has five pitchers returning - Casey Wolfe (0-3, 6.16), Jace Zampirro (2-2, 2.48), Charlie Banfield (4-1, 3.95), Chase Blueberg (0-0, 5.53) and Tyler Valley (0-1, 5.53) - all of whom saw significant action last spring and during the summer. Many teams will have trouble matching that kind of experienced depth.
"We have four starting spots available and five guys competing," Manoukian said. "It's a good problem to have. I don't know who is No. 1 right now.
"Charlie and Casey really matured over the summer. Charlie would get in trouble and instead of throwing his way out, he would pitch his way out. Casey started to figure it out, and he was able to pitch to both sides of the plate. They have all made improvement. They are seeing in themselves what we've been seeing for the past few months."
Manoukian said the pitcher will be on a 70 to 75-pitch count early on. The first-year CHS head coach also said he doesn't believe in letting his pitchers throw more than 100 per start.
When Manoukian took over, he had concerns about his team's catching. Rory Petersen and Nick Domitrovich handled much of the catching, but both graduated last June leaving Manoukian a big hole to fill.
Zak Harjes, who played as a sophomore and didn't play last year, has stepped up and will start. Joe Birri, a sophomore, also will catch. Gehrig Tucker also can catch if needed. Nevin Elliott had knee surgery recently, and Manoukian doesn't know if he'll be able to catch this year.
Manoukian admitted that Harjes is showing a little rust.
"Especially at the plate," Manoukian said. "He dropped a few balls he should have caught in the scrimmage."
Manoukian said he doesn't expect Harjes to shoulder the entire load behind the dish.
"Joe is going to get some playing time right out of the gate. We've got five games in three days, and I would guess he would start two of them."
First base will be shared between Zampirro and Banfield. Luke Maher, who hit .344 a year ago, has moved from first base to third base. Tucker (.375) will start at short and Tyler Valley is the front-runner at second. Dom Norton will back up at both middle infield positions, while Cody Schmidlin will battle for time at third base. Banfield was moved from third to first to take less pressure off his arm.
"There is a lot less throwing at first," Manoukian said.
The outfield is pitcher heavy with Danny Guthrie, Wolfe (.243), Blueberg, Dustin Dutcher and T.J. Thomsen (.268). All five saw time on the mound during the summer.
Manoukian admits that the hitting is a little behind the pitching and defense at the present time, but he's not worried.
"We had 16 strikeouts in 16 innings on Saturday," Manoukian said. "We have to do a better job of making contact. This is normal for my past teams. Hitting is always a couple of weeks behind. I'm not worried. This team will score runs."