MINDEN — With packed bleachers and a rivals occupying the opposing dugouts, the playoff atmosphere was certainly in the air Thursday afternoon at Tiger Field.
In the end, the Douglas baseball team held on for an 8-6 win over Carson, completing a season sweep of the Senators and wrapping up a 13-9 record in Northern Division I play.
“It was our Senior Night, and it’s Carson-Douglas, so guys are excited and emotional,” Douglas coach Bruce Jacobsen said. “I felt at times we were getting lost in the moment rather than living in the moment. Their fans were going, our fans were going, and I think we got a little nervous.
“It is a good thing to have happen before we get to zone so we’re past the shock a bit. Things got tight late in the game there and we made some uncharacteristic mental mistakes, be we found a way. That was the important thing.”
Carson, on the other hand, must go into the regional tournament on a losing streak.
“I was very proud of the kids today,” Carson coach Bryan Manoukian said. “We lost a few games in a row now, but the kids have never given up and they haven’t quit.
“They battled today, took a lead, gave it up, and then made it close again. Hopefully we can turn that into being prepared for the tournament next week.”
Douglas recovered from three early Senator runs to take a 7-3 lead at one point. Then the Tigers held the Senators off for the remainder to clinch the win.
Carson got things going right from the start as Gehrig Tucker lined a single into the outfield to lead off. TJ Thomsen drew a walk and Jace Zampirro reached on an error, which allowed Tucker to score and moved Thomsen to third.
Luke Maher then lofted a sacrifice fly into center that allowed Thomsen to score. Chase Blueberg later singled Zampirro home with two outs in the frame.
Douglas answered back in the bottom half when Chase White singled with one out and Kaleb Foster lined a double into the right center gap to move White to third.
With two outs in the inning, Dillon Lopez blasted a home run that managed to curl inside the foul pole, tying the game at 3.
“We got a couple of knocks there and then Dillon put us right back in it,” Jacobsen said.
Douglas starter Kyle Johnson settled in to pitch a scoreless second and the game took a turn for the borderline chaotic in the bottom of the frame.
Douglas took the lead as Joe Almeida was hit by a pitch to lead off and came around to score on a two-error play that saw Jimmy King wind up at second base.
Cody Carter was then hit by a pitch and Dusty Fisher singled to bring King home for the second run of the inning. Carson then waked Chase White, loading the bases, and Kaleb Foster followed by drawing another walk to drive Carter home for the 6-3 lead.
Cleanup hitter Nolan Weintz stepped to the plate with no outs and the bases loaded and lofted a ball high over the infield that Blueberg, the Carson starting pitcher, attempted to field about 15 feet in front of the plate just off the third base line.
In theory, the play should have been called an infield fly when the ball was still in the air, but it was not.
The ball fell just to the side of Blueberg, still with no infield fly called, which sent the Douglas base runners scrambling. As White broke for third base, Blueberg fired the ball to second, which sent Fisher — who had been at third — bolting for home.
Carson turned the throw back to home plate, where it was caught but no tag applied as Fisher crossed the plate.
At that point, multiple conferences between the coaches and umpires ensued, and it was ultimately ruled that the play had been an infield fly, meaning Weintz was out. Because runners are allowed to advance on an infield fly, in theory, Fisher’s run was counted, making it 7-3 Douglas.
“That was a case where at the end of the day it was a bad defensive play for them and a bad offensive play for us,” Jacobsen said. “Our runners saw it hit the ground, it was signaled a fair ball and the runners took off.
“With an infield fly, the batter is out and everyone advances at their own risk. Bottom line, no one did the right thing on that play, our runners were all over the place, and we ended up getting the benefit of the deal. We’ve been on the other side of that before.”
The Senators got out of the inning without further damage and came right back with a three-run frame triggered by a two-run single from Zak Harjes. Tucker reached on an outfield error with two outs in the inning, allowing Blueberg to score. That made it 7-6, but the Senators didn’t get any closer.
“Carson is a playoff team, we knew they weren’t going to quit,” Jacobsen said. “They kept battling and they found a way back into it. It was good to get a win in this one.”
Douglas starter Kyle Johnson pitched a complete game, picking up the win on five strikeouts and four walks.
Manoukian immediately turned his attention to next week.
“It doesn’t matter who we play, right now we have been our own worst enemy with errors and too many fly balls when we should be focused on driving it and hitting ground balls,” he said. “Baseball is a great game because you get a good guy out there on the mound and you can hang beat anyone out there on any given day. We’ll look to get that type of effort out of our starting pitching next week and look to play strong behind them.”