With the graduation of staff ace Darrell Rasner last June, pitching strength was one of the major question marks the Carson High School baseball team faced coming into this season.
Two weeks into the 2000 campaign, Randy Loff is helping alleviate some of those concerns. The senior right-hander has pitched five-inning complete games in his first two starts, including a two-hit 10-0 victory against South Tahoe at Ron McNutt Field on Thursday afternoon.
Six of Carson's 12 hits went for extra bases, including Chandler Allen's three-run homer in the first, as the Senators scored in every inning to win a game that took only 85 minutes.
"I was very happy to see the kids come out and play like they did," said Carson coach Ron McNutt, whose club improved its Northern 4A conference record to 4-1. "They came out very aggressive, they attacked the pitcher and got some timely hits, and they played good defense behind Randy."
Loff only threw 57 pitches during his stint, walked none and struck out one. He got seven outs on ground balls, including a 6-4-3 double play to end fourth inning.
"I had good defense behind me today," said Loff, who is playing in his first high school season. "That helped me get the butterflies out. This being my first home game, I didn't want to mess up."
The 6-foot-2 Loff was even better than he was in last Saturday's 15-5 victory at Hug.
"Randy improved a lot. His control was a lot better today," McNutt said. "He's done an excellent job. Not many kids do what he's done (pitch as a senior without previous high school experience). He's earned his way onto the team and we're very happy to have him."
South Tahoe's Chris Hannum deserved a better fate in the four innings he put up. Three errors led to four unearned runs, and of the 10 runs the right-hander surrendered, eight came with two outs. He struck out three and walked one.
"Chris threw well. If we get the outs behind him, we're all right," South Tahoe coach Doug Russell said. "You're not going to keep Carson down; that's not a team you want to give extra outs in an inning. Add to that a pitcher who's got his A-game going, and that's a tough combination to beat.
"We ran into a buzzsaw in Loff today. Anytime you have a game that goes 1:25, you know the pitchers have done their job."
Carson scored four runs after two outs in the first inning. Joe Mercer doubled and scored when Matt Leck bounced a single into left. Ben Moore singled through the box and then Allen drilled a 1-0 pitch over the fence in straightaway center to put the Senators on top 4-0. Allen also hit a three-run homer Tuesday in Carson's 12-8 win over Fallon.
Nick Gitthens delivered a two-run double in the fourth to extend Carson's lead to 10-0.
South Tahoe had only three baserunners in the game. Ryan Cullen hit a soft line-drive single into left field to lead off the third inning. Matt Connelly got aboard on an infield error to open the fourth, but was later erased when Carson's Tony Faulkner, Brian Kleidosty and Leck collaborated on a ground ball double play. Cullen also had a wind-blown pop fly single with two outs in the fifth.
The Vikings, now in a stretch where they're playing seven games in eight days, got another tough break this week when they were forced to forfeit Tuesday's win over Douglas due to a violation of pitching rules (Cullen exceeded the 11-inning limit over four days). This is still a team to watch, McNutt warns.
"South Tahoe is a good ballclub," he said. "In their defense, I've always admired what those coaches do up there in the snow, being stuck in the gym and staying as competitive as they are in baseball. That team is going to win some games this year, I'm sure we're going to have a tough game when we go up there to play."