If not for only two Northern 4A teams advancing to the state tournament this year, Carson's games this weekend against Durango and Green Valley could've been a prelude for state. But since that's not the case, the Senators need to make the most of their opportunity to play against two of the best teams from down south.
"Well, I hope we get to play them again," said coach Ron McNutt. "We've already faced Gorman (4-3 loss), so after this weekend we would've had three games against teams that will probably be in the state tournament. But we're going down there to get some good games. You only get better by playing teams that are as good as Durango and Green Valley are."
The Trailblazers, ranked No. 13 in the nation by USA Today, returned seven starters from last season's third place team. They return their entire pitching staff, including 6-foot-7 Jeff Jacobsen, and they have 15 seniors on their roster.
"They (Durango) have a great pitcher and a lot of guys back from last season," McNutt said. "I think our kids are going to see what the best teams in the state are like."
On paper, the Senators best chance at a win is probably against the Gators, the defending state champs. Green Valley (17-11) lost almost everybody from last season's team, except for pitcher Ryan Tabor, who has an ERA of 2.90. But the Gators are coming off a 14-4 loss to Foothill on Tuesday and, honestly, they don't have the same type of talent that has won them seven of the past nine big school state championships.
Regardless, they beat Miami (Fla.) Columbus High this season, a team currently ranked No. 20 in the nation by Baseball America. But even if Green Valley hadn't won a game all season, McNutt still feels his team would be an underdog.
"You know a lot of times when a southern team plays a northern team, they go out thinking they're going to win," McNutt said. "A northern team still questions themselves before they go out there, there's always a little bit of doubt. Kids up here go up against pitchers that throw 80, 81, 82. They go down there and see guys throwing 88, 89, 90. It's a real eye opener."
Durango (21-4) is led by Coltyn Simmons (signed with UNLV), who's second in batting among Southern 4A players with a .507 average. Throw in Don Sutton (32 RBIs), Danny Kelly (31 RBIs, signed with Pepperdine) and Jacobsen, who's been throwing in the mid 80s since his freshman year, and Carson has itself quite an opponent. Oh yeah, Jacobsen also hits .476.
But McNutt wants these games to prepare his team for next week's crucial three-game series against Reno, not necessarily to win games that really don't count. Actually, the Senators have an outside shot at winning the Sierra League title. If the Huskies split their doubleheader on Saturday against Douglas in Minden and are swept by the Senators next week, then Carson would finish No. 1. The Huskies beat the Tigers 4-2 on Thursday in Reno.
McNutt, though, said he won't hold his breath.
"You can't count on someone else doing the work you should've done," McNutt said. "Reno beat a team (Wooster) three times that beat us twice. Hopefully, when we come back from the games this weekend, we'll go in with some confidence into the Reno series."