Bryan Manoukian hesitated briefly when asked to give his overall thoughts on Saturday’s game against Wooster.
“We got a ‘W,’ and that’s better than losing,” Manoukian said after the Senators got back into the win column with a 4-2 victory over the Colts at Ron McNutt Field.
Carson improved to 5-3 overall and 2-1 in Division I play.
Manoukian didn’t appear to be overly excited about the win, and he shouldn’t have been. Carson struggled again on offense, managing only five hits off right-hander Jaymes Spang. That’s nine hits in two games against two of the weaker teams in the conference.
It took a solid five-inning effort by Chase Blueberg, a great throw by center fielder Casey Wolfe to cut down the tying run at the plate in the sixth and 1.1 innings of solid relief by Chaz Nystrom to put this one on the positive side of the ledger.
Manoukian chalked up the lackluster hitting performance to youth.
“(A) Young hitter’s confidence is so fragile,” Manoukian said. “Any small change happens, and once they don’t feel comfortable they tend to struggle. We didn’t get a lot of hits, but we still executed well. We moved runners over and hit sacrifice flies when we needed to.”
“We’re a little inconsistent right now,” said Blueberg, who picked up the mound win. “It’s going to come. I’m confident in our team. We just need to get in a rhythm and get a little momentum going.”
Carson took a 3-0 lead after three, as T.J. Thomsen started both rallies with a single and walk, respectively. A mental mistake by the Wooster catcher allowed Thomsen to score in the first, and a double by Gehrig Tucker and sacrifice fly by Luke Maher accounted for two runs in the third. Carson had a chance to score a third run in the third, but Jace Zampirro was thrown out trying to go from first to third on Cody Schmidlin’s single.
Meanwhile, Blueberg who struck out eight and walked two in 5.1 innings, stranded a runner in the second by striking out Harpreet Dhaliwal and then stranded runners at first and third in the fourth by getting Dhaliwal again on strikes. Wooster put runners on first and second in the fifth, but Blueberg retired Coltan Ramirez on strikes for the third straight time to end the inning.
The Colts broke through in the top of the sixth off Blueberg when Austin Chipman doubled to deep center and moved to third on Chris Watts’ infield out. Instead of following conventional strategy and playing the infield back with a three-run lead, Manoukian brought the infield up. Mike Sowers followed with a ball to the hole between third and short, and Tucker made a nice play to get to the ball but was unable to throw out Sowers, and Chipman scored.
“I don’t like to give up runs,” Manoukian said. “I thought runs were going to be at a premium. If Cody does his job, we make the play. He didn’t take the right angle. We’ve brought the infield up in unconventional situations and had success with it.”
Dhaliwal singled Sowers to second, ending Blueberg’s day.
“It was my first time going that long,” Blueberg said. “I hurt my hip yesterday in practice; kind of like a pulled muscle. I was happy with the way it (the start went).”
“I thought Chase pitched a really good game,” Manoukian said. “He needs to not have so many deep counts so he can go deeper into games.”
Dustin Dutcher relieved Blueberg, and struggled with location. He walked both batters he faced and uncorked a wild pitch, which scored Sowers to make it 3-2. Chaz Nystrom came on to face J.J. Harloff, who lifted a flyball to center. Casey Wolfe made the easy catch and then uncorked a throw to catcher Joe Birri, who put the tag on a sliding Dhaliwal.
“I was surprised he went,” Wolfe said. “The ball wasn’t hit that deep at all. I just came up throwing, and Joe was just sitting there with the ball.”
“Casey did a good job of staying behind the ball, and he threw a strike,” Manoukian said. “They (Wooster) were just being aggressive. All the runner has to do is run. The defense has to catch the ball, throw the ball and make the tag. I probably would have tried to score, too.”
Carson pushed across another run in the sixth when Maher was plunked by a pitch, moved to second on a wild pitch, to third on a passed ball and scored on a sacrifice fly by Zak Harjes.
Wooster put runners on first and second with two outs, but Nystrom struck out Sowers looking to end the game.
Carson returns to action Tuesday at Wooster at 3:45 p.m., and then hosts Damonte at 3:45 p.m. Thursday.