Despite a doubleheader loss to Spanish Springs on Saturday afternoon at Ron McNutt Field, the Carson Senators still have a firm grip on the final playoff spot in Division I baseball.
In the opener, Spanish Springs scored in six of the seven innings en route to a 7-2 win, and in the nightcap the Cougars scored three times in the first inning en route to an easy 13-5 victory.
Carson fell to 7-13 with a two-game series left against Douglas on Wednesday and Thursday. Spanish Springs improved to 16-4. The Senators’ closest competitor, McQueen split its doubleheader against Wooster and fell to 5-14. The Lancers have a make-up game against Damonte on Monday. A loss in that game would eliminate the Lancers from the playoffs.
Carson coach Bryan Manoukian envisioned this could happen when the season started, but he would have preferred to have a spot locked up by now. Carson has lost six straight and seven of its last eight, and you can’t gain ground doing that.
“Realistically I thought we could be in this position,” Manoukian said. “We have not taken care of business, and today is an example of that. We’re not doing things we need to do to win games.”
Chase Blueberg, who has lost his last two decisions, gave up a homer on the second pitch of the game to Matt Mannens. That set the tone, as the Cougars scored one in each of the first three innings, tallied twice in the fourth and one in the fifth and sixth.
The first three runs were more than enough for lefty Gehrig Parker, who shut down the Senators’ offense on just four hits. He struck out eight and walked three. Other than the two innings when Carson scored, Parker was only in trouble once, and that was the fourth when he wiggled out of a second-and-third situation.
“He (Parker) looked good,” said Cougars head coach Ben Hofmann. “He had a good fastball, good change and curveball. He was able to throw backwards at times. He mixed his pitches well.”
Carson cut a 3-0 lead to 3-1 in the third when Dom Norton reached on an infield single, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on a two-out single to right by Gehrig Tucker.
Mannens extended the Cougars’ lead to 5-1 in the fourth with two-out, two-run double. A Hunter Pinto run-scoring single made it 6-1 in the fifth and a throwing error by Cody Schmidlin on a potential double play ball made it 7-1 in the top of the sixth.
Carson scored its final run when TJ Thomsen walked and scored on a two-out double by Schmidlin.
Pinto went 3-for-3 and Mannens went 2-for-3. Nortron, Schmidlin, Tucker and Jace Zampirro hit safely for the Senators.
The second game got off to an ugly start when the Cougars scored three times in the first off Zampirro thanks to a run-scoring single by Lucas Jones, a throwing error by Zak Harjes and a single by Pinto.
Carson got one back in the first when Luke Maher, who went 4-for-4, singled home T.J. Thomsen. It could have been a bigger inning, but Tucker, who led off the inning with an infield single was packed off between second and third. Maher’s hit would have scored both runners.
“I don’t have a problem with that,” Manoukian said. “Gehrig was just trying to be aggressive. That has happened to me before.”
A dropped flyball by Dustin Dutcher made it 4-1 in the second, and again Carson answered against Spanish Springs’ Garrett Covington when Tucker’s infield single scored Harjes. The Senators made it 4-3 in the fourth on doubles by Maher and Harjes.
Each team scored in the fifth, but two in the sixth, one on a solo homer by Jackie Haley and another on a squeeze bunt by Shannon Kelly, gave the Cougars a 7-4 lead. A triple by Thomsen and Zampirro’s infield roller made it 7-5. In the seventh the Cougars exploded for six runs against relievers Brandon Allen and Danny Guthrie before Tucker quelled the uprising.
NOTES: Charlie Banfield will start one of the games against Douglas, and Manoukian is undecided about the second starter ... Wednesday is Senior Night at CHS and the game starts at 7 p.m. ...Maher is now 10 for his last 22, including five for extra bases.