Joe Nelson came up big two different times Wednesday night against arch-rival Douglas.
Nelson pitched a scoreless inning of relief in the eighth, and then singled in the bottom of the inning to snap a 2-2 tie and give the Carson Blue Jays a 3-2 win over the Tigers at Ron McNutt Field.
Carson had led 2-0 from the bottom of the third until the Tigers tied the game at 2 in the top of the seventh when Hayden Keller hit a two-out single off Brandon Allen.
Carson answered right back when Connor Pradere drew a walk off lefty Ben Penwell and then Josiah Pongasi was hit by a pitch. Kaleb Foster tried to pick off Pradere at second, but his throw was off the mark, allowing the runners to move to second and third. Douglas coach Bruce Jacobsen brought in an outfielder to play infield, trying to cut down the area between first and second with lefty Bryce Moyle up. Moyle grounded to third baseman Blake Murray, who ended up holding the ball and never tried to throw out Moyle at first.
The play loaded the bases for Jace Keema. This time the extra infielder was positioned in the hole between third and short, and Keema was unable to get the ball out of the infield. The defense remained in the same spots for John Holton, who fanned for the second out. Up stepped Nelson, who ripped a game-winning single against a normal defensive alignment.
“I was looking for a pitch I could lift, and he gave it to me on the first pitch,” Nelson said. “I’m not used to relieving. I had some trouble throwing strikes, but my teammates did a good job behind me.”
Carson coach Bryan Manoukian said it wasn’t the first time he’d ever seen that kind of shift used.
“I’d seen it in the majors and at the college level,” Manoukian said. “I thought it was great coaching by (Bruce) Jacobsen. It almost paid off.
“I don’t think we had a very good approach at the plate all night. We didn’t let the ball travel, and we were out in front all the time. It wasn’t until Joe hit (that it changed). He let the ball travel and he got the game-winning hit.”
The unsung hero in this one was Kyle Krebs, who pitched shutout ball for six innings, allowing just three hits.
“Kyle pitched a fantastic game,” Manoukian said. “I probably could have stayed with him, but he’d reached his pitch count.”
Carson staked Krebs to the aforementioned 2-0 lead in the third thanks to some great small-ball execution.
Jesse Lopez hit a bounder over the middle. Jayden Foster got to the ball, but his throw to first was wild. Lopez had the ball beat, and took second on the overthrow. Cody Azevedo beat out a bunt to put runners at first and third. Pradere was safe on an error by Murray to score a run and Pongasi beat out a bunt to score Azevedo with the second run.
Krebs was tough thereafter, retiring nine of the next 11 hitters before being lifted for a pinch-hitter and turning the ball over to Allen.
Logan Fencl singled off Allen and then Murray followed with a bloop single to put runners at first and second. Fencl eventually scored on a sacrifice fly to left, and after an infield out, Keller singled to right, tying the game.
That set the stage for Nelson’s heroics in the eighth.