How does a baseball team go from scoring 17 runs to 1 run against the same team in a span of two days?
Better pitching for one and better defense. And, you might throw in a little overconfidence while you’re at it.
After pounding out a 17-5 win Tuesday at North Valleys, the Panthers’ Mauricio Varela and two relievers limited Carson to four hits and gained a split in the series with a 3-1 win Thursday night at Ron McNutt Field.
The loss dropped Carson to 4-3 overall and 1-1 in league play entering Saturday’s home game (11 a.m.) against Wooster. Chase Blueberg will get the start on the mound for the Senators.
“You can’t take anything away from their guy (Varela),” Carson coach Bryan Manoukian said. “He got ahead in the count and was throwing first-pitch strikes. Our approach could have been better. If he’s throwing that many first-pitch strikes, we probably should have been swinging. He was aggressive, and we didn’t match his aggressiveness. We took a lot of pitches and then chased bad pitches. They did a better job defensively than they did on Tuesday.
“I don’t think we were overconfident or took them for granted. They scored five runs Tuesday. We knew they could swing it.”
Charlie Banfield, who was the tough-luck losing pitcher, had a different opinion than his coach.
“After a 17-5 win, most definitely I think we were overconfident as a team,” Banfield said.
Varela went 6-plus innings, allowing a run and four hits. He struck out five and walked one. He left in the top of the seventh after the first two hitters reached on errors. Banfield, meanwhile, worked the first five innings, allowing two runs, one earned, and five hits. He struck out three and walked two.
“I thought Charlie threw great,” Manoukian said. “Unfortunately, he was a negative recipient of our lack of execution on offense and defense.”
“I don’t think I pitched all that bad,” Banfield said. “They had nothing to lose. They were up there swinging it. Losing 3-1 is unacceptable. They didn’t take a lot of pitches.”
North Valleys scored single runs in the second and third to take a 2-0 lead.
In the second, Trenton Stowe had a 12-pitch at-bat and finally walked. Varela blooped a single to right, sending Stowe to third. After Varela was cut down by Zak Harjes trying to steal second, Cody Duke grounded to second to score Stowe. In the third, Gabe Barthold beat out a bunt and reached third on an error by Luke Maher. Kody Milligan, who had reached on the error, stole second. Harjes’ throw hit him in the leg and bounced away which allowed Barthold to score.
Carson threatened in the third when Dom Norton doubled and moved to third on Gehrig Tucker’s one-out groundball to third. The rally ended when Banfield grounded out to second base.
The Senators finally got on the board in the fifth when Harjes singled with one out, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a single to right by T.J. Thomsen. Harjes ran through the stop sign of third-base coach Chad Eaton. Thomsen stole second and Tucker walked. Banfield popped to right to end the inning.
Cody Schmidlin, who worked a scoreless sixth after taking over for Banfield, ran into trouble in the top of the seventh.
Jacob Heisler reached on an error, but was cut down stealing. Dylan Parry walked, moved to second on an infield out and scored on Milligan’s double off the fence. Schmidlin walked Hunter Pierce to load the bases and gave way to Danny Guthrie, who retired Stowe to end the inning.
That set the stage for an exciting seventh when North Valleys gave Carson a chance to get back into the game, but the Senators were unable to take advantage.
Casey Wolfe and Harjes reached on errors to open the inning, and that ended Varela’s day. Adrin Bowles came on to face Norton. With the No. 9 hitter up, a bunt seemed to be the play. Bowles fell behind 3-0, but worked it back to full count and then struck out Norton for the first out.
“We did think about the bunt,” Manoukian said. “When it got to 3-0, I had him take two strikes. Dom has been swinging a good bat. He’s been one of our best hitters lately. We gambled and lost. That’s half on me and half on Dom.”
Ian Flanary came on to relieve Bowles and struck out Thomsen for the second out. He hit Tucker to load the bases and then got Banfield on a short fly to right to end the game.
Carson stranded eight runners and went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
“We didn’t do a good job during the game of driving in runners with two outs,” Manoukian said. “I know it’s a tough situation, but good teams find a way to do that.”