Opportunistic Tigers end eight-year drought

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When opportunity knocked, the Douglas High School baseball team answered and Carson didn't. And it was the Tigers who answered last with a two-run rally in the top of the seventh inning to defeat the Senators 8-6 in a three-hour contest played on a frigid Thursday afternoon at Carson's Ron McNutt Field.

Matt Saylo's bases loaded single broke a 6-6 tie then Andrew Andrews drove another run home on a suicide squeeze as Douglas won the Sierra League opener and ended an 18-game losing streak against Carson that dated back to 1994.

"It was a great ball game. Carson has a great ball club and we're pretty good, too," said Hal Wheeler, who has returned as head coach at Douglas after holding the post between 1980 and '94. "We made the plays today and we put the ball in play when we had to. This time it came out in our favor, but Saturday might be a different story. We've just got to battle every time out."

The two rivals, both contenders for the Sierra League championship this season, meet again Saturday on the Douglas diamond in Minden. The twin-bill is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., weather permitting.

Needless to say, this was an important win to the Tigers.

"We hadn't beat them since the last time coach Wheeler was here," Saylo said. "This was nice, but we still have two more games we want to get."

The Senators, who trailed 4-0 in the second inning and 6-3 in the sixth, rallied back to tie the score on a day when some key statistics weighed heavily against them. For one, Douglas pitchers Darren Murren and Tommy Hoyle combined for 12 strikeouts (seven called). For another, the Senators left 10 runners stranded on the bases (six in scoring position). And they committed five errors in the field.

Coach Ron McNutt accepted the blame for all that.

"Like I told the kids, I'm taking the blame for the loss," McNutt said. "I told them I was taking the blame for the men we left on base and all the guys who didn't swing the bat and all the errors, so they don't have to worry it. I didn't have them ready to play, Douglas outplayed us and they deserved to win. But we'll bounce back as a team."

Douglas took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Shane Cauley doubled to lead off the game, advanced to third when Marc Walling laid down a full-count bunt for a base hit, and scored on Austin Graham's sacrifice fly to center field. Walling, who hit 3-for-4 in his first varsity start, came up again in the second and cranked a three-run homer over the left field fence to make it 4-0.

Carson loaded the bases in the bottom half of the inning, but only scored one run on Rodney Black's sacrifice fly. Third baseman Cal Lewis turned a 5-3 double play moments later to end the inning.

Lewis came up with another big defensive play in the third. With two Carson base runners in scoring position and two outs, the senior bare handed a slow roller and got the out at first to retire the side.

Carson cut the gap to 4-3 in the fourth with two runs, thanks to an RBI double by Andrew James and an error. The Senators loaded the bases with one out in the fifth but came away empty handed. Instead, Murren got a called strikeout and then made a play on a high chopper to his right for the third out.

Murren allowed five hits, struck out seven and walked five in five innings of work.

"Darren did an absolutely great job," Wheeler said of the senior right-hander. "He could have probably went some more, but it's still early in the season and it's cold out here, so we didn't want him throwing that many pitches (107)."

The Senators tied the score 6-6 with three runs off Hoyle in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to a walk, Ben Moore's single and a pair of errors. Pinch runner Aaron Henry scored the tying run on a wild pitch.

Douglas answered in the top of the seventh. Lewis and Hoyle drew full-count walks off relief pitcher Owen Brolsma and Erik Olson's sacrifice bunt was misplayed for an error to load the bases. Then Saylo slapped a single through Carson's drawn-in infield to break the tie.

"Bases loaded, the guy was throwing pretty good, I was waiting for a fast ball and I got one down the middle," said Saylo, who went 2-for-3 in the game. "I just wanted to make contact and I did that."

Next up, Andrews pushed a suicide squeeze bunt up the first base line to bring home another run.

"A lot of people said what a gutsy call that was, but Andrew is one of the best bunters on our team and he's one of our quickest guys. It was the right thing to do for us at that time," Wheeler said.

Hoyle came back out in the bottom of the seventh and struck out the side to slam the door shut for Douglas.

Brolsma, who went six innings as Carson's starting catcher, was charged with the loss after facing four batters in the seventh. McNutt didn't second guess the decision to use Brolsma on the mound, though.

"At the end there, it was a coaching decision on my part to let our catcher throw a little bit because down the road, we're going to use him when we have to," McNutt said. "We took the gamble in the first game of the season to see how he would be. Today, it didn't work our way, but I know he's going to help us help down the road."

Carson starter Tim Priess left in the sixth after throwing 101 pitches. The senior right-hander, an all-conference pitcher last year, allowed eight hits, struck out four and walked three.

Moore went 2-for-4 to lead Carson's six-hit attack.


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