For the third time in as many starts, the Carson Senators are counting on Chase Blueberg to be their stopper.
Blueberg, who is 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA, will toe the mound at 4 p.m. today when Carson faces off against Reed at Aces Ballpark in hopes of gaining a split in the two-game series and getting back to .500 in league play.
In his previous two starts, both after Carson losses, Blueberg has come through with solid efforts. After Carson lost 18-10 to Damonte, he came back two days later and shut down the Mustangs 5-1. After a 17-6 loss to Galena last week, Blueberg came back two days later and threw three innings of a 15-1 five-inning win over Hug.
“We have to go out there and get a win,” Blueberg said after Thursday’s 7-5 loss to Reed at Ron McNutt Field. “I think we have a good chance. We’re fired up and excited to be playing at the Aces Ballpark.
“It helps that I’ve faced them before. I tried to look at what they were doing today. I think I picked up a few things that will help me.”
Blueberg gave up one run and three hits against Reed during a game in the Mike Bearman Invitational. He has been Carson’s most consistent pitcher thus far.
Carson (5-6) has been an up-and-down team all year in the win-loss category, pitching and hitting. After getting off to a 3-1 start, the Senators have lost five of their last seven. Since the fast start they have struggled to get and stay at the .500 mark.
Thursday was a microcosm of the whole year. The Senators scored four in the first inning to overcome a 2-0 deficit, but managed just one unearned run and three hits the rest of the way. With the meaty part of the schedule ahead, the Senators have to get better.
“I think we had a good approach,” Carson coach Bryan Manoukian said. “We hit a few balls right at them and they made some nice defensive plays, too. He (Reed pitcher Thomas Sertic) is a good pitcher and he settled down.
“We have to start executing offensively, stop missing signs and getting our bunts down. We didn’t execute (bunts) four times today. We’re not getting it done with runners in scoring position. We have to start capitalizing on our opportunities.”
A first-pitch homer by Joey Dice of Charlie Banfield got the ball rolling for the Raiders. The second run came after a one-out error by Gehrig Tucker and a double just inside the bag at first by Brandon Kozsuth which scored Tyler Starley. Kozsuth was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a triple.
T.J. Thomsen walked, Tucker singled up the middle and Luke Maher was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Jace Zampirro, who was scratched from the pitching start because of an injury, singled home two runs. After Zak Harjes walked, Banfield hit into a double play, which scored Maher. Cody Schmidlin followed with a sharp single to left to score Zampirro to make it 4-2.
Sertic allowed one run, three hits and four baserunners over the final six innings.
“He settled down,” Reed coach John Phenix said. “He got ahead in the count a lot more. That was the key. You can’t pitch from behind in this league.”
Reed, which outhit Carson 14-6, scored one in the second on a run-scoring single by No. 9 hitter Casey Higgins. The score was set up when left fielder Danny Guthrie left his feet on Brett Chaney’s line drive, playing the ball into a double which put runners at second and third. Higgins followed moments later with his run-scoring single. Banfield got the next two hitters to limit the damage.
A bad decision opened the door in the Reed third.
Mark Nowaczewski led off with a liner that Casey Wolfe left his feet for and was unable to keep in front of him. Nowaczewski moved to third on a single by Kozsuth and scored on Dylan Miller’s single. Kozsuth eventually scored on Brett Chaney’s infield out to give the Raiders a 5-4 lead.
“Our outfielders need to understand the value of keeping the runners at first base to set up a force out,” Manoukian said.
Carson battled back with a run in the bottom of the third when Zampirro hit an infield single and made it to second on Chaney’s wild throw. Zampirro moved to third on a long fly by Zak Harjes and scored on a single by Banfield.
The Raiders broke through in the top of the sixth when Starley homered on an 0-1 pitch to make it 6-5. Nowaczewski singled and was replaced on the basepaths by Jake Lehman, who scored on Kozsuth’s third hit of the game.