For five innings, the North Valleys Panthers appeared well on their way to beating Carson, just like they did in games against Reno and Douglas. But just like in those games, once ace pitcher Scott Cousins tired, North Valleys crumbled. Thursday afternoon wasn't any different.
In the fifth, Ryan Henry broke up Cousins' no-hitter and shutout bid with an RBI double in the fifth, then Jon Teeter added a clutch two-run double in the sixth as the Senators scored five runs in the sixth in a 6-5 win over the Panthers at Ron McNutt Field.
"We were in complete control for six innings, then we made some mistakes," said North Valleys coach Rob Hastings. "Guys throwing balls away and guys not getting hits. Against the good teams, that's been happening. For some reason, we can't make the plays."
Cousins was pitching a perfect game through 4 1/3 innings. But he walked Eric Melendez in the bottom of the fifth, then Neil Holmes' sac bunt advanced Melendez to second. Henry, who hasn't had many at bats this season, scored Melendez with a blast to the right field wall. Cousins struck out 10 batters in 5 2/3 innings but ended up with the loss after the Panthers completely fall apart in the sixth inning.
John Parmenter and Aaron Henry led off the inning with singles, which put runners on first and second for Teeter. After getting into a two-strike count and with the tying run on second, Teeter didn't want to waste this opportunity. So he consulted with third-base coach Steve Cook on what to do -- either bunt or swing away. He did both.
Teeter faked bunt, then pulled back and smacked a two-run double down the first base line that scored both Parmenter and Aaron Henry to put Carson up 3-2.
"I got confused on the signs and had to talk with him," Teeter said. "It (Cousins' pitch) was right down the middle, I just got out in front of it. He was pitching well but we knew that once we could get a runner on base we'd be all right."
The Senators went on to score three more runs and went through two other pitchers in the sixth.
Meanwhile, a frustrated Hastings could only watch in agony. North Valleys, which lost to first-place Reno 12-3 after leading 3-2 going into the seventh, left 10 guys in scoring position in the game and stranded a total of 13 runners.
"When you leave all those guys on second and third base in the first four innings, bad things are going to happen," Hastings said. "This could've been a 10-run game for us. With some keys hits, we would've won this game. We should've won. He (Cousins) pitched well enough to win. It's not like we didn't have any chances to win. We just didn't make the plays when we needed to and they did. "
Carson starter Jake Rasner, who struck out six batters in five innings, loaded the bases in both the third and fourth innings. But Rasner, who walked five batter and hit two others, always escaped untouched. North Valleys scored its first two runs off errors.
Danny Rotter replaced Rasner in the top of the sixth with the Senators trailing 2-1. Following the big sixth inning, Rotter got the win and Melendez the save. The Panthers scored three runs in the seventh inning but Melendez got Kyle Hanson, North Valleys' best hitter, to ground out to end the game with the tying run on second.
Carson improves to 8-2 in league and 16-5 overall, not counting three forfeit wins over Hug, which was unable to field a varsity team this season. The Senators play a doubleheader against the Panthers starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Reno.
"If we get both of these games this weekend, we still have a chance at first and that's important going into zone," Teeter said. "But this one was huge. We knew it would be the hardest one and it's a confidence booster going into the weekend."
North Valleys has to win four of its final five games to earn the fourth and final playoff spot in the zone playoffs. They have a three-game series against Wooster next week.
"Coming into this game we needed to win four of our last six games, so we still have a shot," Hastings said.
CARSON JVS 17, NORTH VALLEYS 2
Wes Osmer had a big day for the Carson junior varsity baseball team (12-4, 8-2), going 4-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs to lead a 21-hit attack. Osmer was also the winning pitcher, allowing four hits and striking out six in going the distance in the game that was called after five innings.
Carson scored seven runs in the second and added seven runs in the fifth. Dane Nelson had three hits, Adam Anderson and Murphy Gardner each had two hits, Alex Tanchek had three hits and three RBIs and Kyle Cahill had three hits and two RBIs for Carson.