For five innings, the Carson High offense was nowhere to be found.
The Senators managed just one hit and two baserunners against Spanish Springs right-hander Nick Audenreid.
In came Hunter Pinto to start the sixth, and the Senators struck for four runs thanks to a sacrifice fly by Dom Norton and a two-out two-run triple to deep right by Luke Maher to grab a 4-3 victory Wednesday night at Ron McNutt Field in the semifinals of the Spanish Springs Tournament.
The win sends Carson into Friday’s championship game at 2 p.m. The Senators will face the winner of the Spanish Springs-Douglas game which starts at 11 a.m.
The win was Carson’s third straight of the tournament, and featured outstanding pitching efforts by starter Brandon Allen and reliever Chazz Nystrom, who combined on a 5-hitter. Nystrom picked up the win with 2.1 scoreless innings in relief of Allen, who was called up just Tuesday night from the JV team.
Carson coach Bryan Manoukian had nothing but prase for his two hurlers.
“I thought Brandon came on and did a fine job,” Manoukian said. “He was aggressive early in the count and was locating his fastball. He didn’t have a lot of command with his off-speed pitch early, but he found his release point later on in the game. Brandon didn’t exceed expectations. He played summer ball for us, so we knew what he was capable of doing. He had reached the 60-pitch mark and was getting a little tired.”
“Chazz did a nice job coming in and shutting the door in the fifth and then throwing a scoreless sixth and seventh.”
Allen and Audenreid matched each other strike-for-strike for the first four innings as each team managed just one hit.
Spanish Springs struck for three runs in the top of the fifth thanks to four hits and a costly throwing error by T.J. Thomsen which cost a run. Matt Mannens and Kenny Semenko each had a run-scoring single. Audenreid struck out the side in the fifth, and then departed in favor of Pinto.
“I needed to get Pinto some work because he’s only thrown a couple of times,” said Spanish Springs coach Ben Hofmann. “Audenreid threw well. He gives us an opportunity to win every time we throw him out there. He didn’t have his best slider, but he battled.
“This was a very good game. The pitchers all threw well.”
With one out, Cody Schmidlin doubled to right-centerfield. Casey Wolfe followed with a single to the right of second base. Schmidlin, thinking the ball might get caught, hesitated too long and had to get back to second. He did make it to third on a wild throw back into the infield. After Thomsen walked, Norton followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1. Wolfe scored to make it 3-2 on a Pinto wild pitch with Gehrig Tucker at the plate. Tucker eventually walked, and he and Thomsen scored to make it 4-3 when Maher drove the ball deep in the gap in right-centerfield. Spanish Springs’ Alex Moreno made a long run to get to the ball, but it glanced off his glove.
“I thought it was going to get caught,” said Maher, who didn’t look good early in the count against Pinto’s breaking ball. “I hit it pretty good.”
“I thought their right fielder made one heck of an effort on the ball,” Manoukian said. “It’s not an easy field to play, especially tonight with the wind blowing.”
After that it was up to the crafty Nystrom, who allowed one baserunner in his stint.
“I was (nervous) a little bit,” Nystrom said. “I was excited when I saw Luke’s ball drop. Coach told me that it would be either me or Danny (Guthrie) after Brandon. My change-up was really working well. I threw that a lot.”
Maybe the biggest positive to come out of the game was Allen’s performance. The sophomore right-hander said he didn’t know until a couple hours before the game that he was starting. He admitted he was a bit nervous, but it was hard to tell.
“I knew I had to come in and throw strikes and get groundballs,” Allen said. “The defense behind me was good.”
“He definitely earned the right to stay on varsity,” Manoukian said. “I don’t know if his role will be a starter or not. He gives us an added arm that can come in and get people out.”
And, with two four-game weeks looming ahead, Carson will need all of its pitching to come through to make a push up the standings.