It is said pitching and defense wins championships. If the Carson High School baseball team expects to go far this season, however, the Senators are going to need to start hitting the ball better.
The Senators managed six hits, but struck out nine times and left 12 runners stranded on the bases in a 6-3 non-league defeat against McQueen on Tuesday afternoon at Ron McNutt Field.
McQueen scored two unearned runs in the fourth inning to break a 3-3 tie and then escaped from bases loaded jams in the fifth and seventh innings to win in a meeting between teams that figure to contend for berths in the Northern 4A Regional Tournament in May.
"I think McQueen and Galena are probably going to be the top two (in the High Desert League)," McNutt said of the Lancers, who won two of three games against Reed in a league series last weekend.
Even though Carson took two of three games in its Sierra League opening series against Douglas, the Senators only managed five hits in each game on Monday when they split a doubleheader. They're going to need to do better, according to coach McNutt.
"To be a good, good ball club that can win the league, you've got to be able to swing the bat. And I don't see us doing that right now," McNutt said. "We're looking at too many called strike three pitches, we're trying to guess on pitches. I don't know what the answer is right now, but we're been working hard and we're going to find it."
The Senators scored once in the first inning against McQueen starter Nick Nistler, but they left the bases loaded on a strikeout. They scored twice in the third inning, but that rally died on a strikeout with runners on second and third.
Willie Bowman reached on an infield hit and Eric Melendez hit a bloop single over shortstop to open the fifth, but the Senators left the bases loaded on a ground ball out to end the inning.
Then in the seventh, the Senators had three runners aboard with no outs before reliever Zach Borba rang up three straight strikeouts to end the game. The final out came on a called strike three pitch on the outside. Four of Carson's nine strikeouts in the game were called.
McQueen took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, aided by two errors, Ronnie O'Donovan's fly ball that was misplayed and fell for a double and Borba's run-scoring single to left.
"We didn't come ready to play," McNutt said. "We came out nonchalant and it showed because we gave them six outs in the first inning. We had a couple of fly balls that should have been caught and we had a throw dropped at first base. We've got to make those plays."
Carson got one run back in the bottom half of the first when Neil Holmes doubled into the gap in left-center field and eventually strolled home when Aaron Henry was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
Holmes was hit by a pitch and Owen Brolsma walked to lead off the third. Eric Melendez, who went 2-for-2 on the day, loaded the bases with a single to left. Next up, Henry hit a low liner down the first base line, but McQueen's Larry Nistler came up with the catch to deny the bid for extra bases. Tony Teixera doubled off the right field fence to drive two runs home and tie the score 3-3 before Nick Nistler got his inning-ending strikeout.
Borba came on to pitch with two runners aboard and no outs in the seventh. He walked Henry, but then the senior right-hander reached back and struck out the next three batters to end the game. Borba earned credit for the save.
Three Carson pitchers combined to limit McQueen to eight hits. Mike Handley started and pitched into the fifth when he was relieved by Danny Rotter, who worked out of a bases loaded jam. Owen Brolsma came on to pitch in the seventh and retired three of the four batters he faced on strikeouts.
Brolsma, a senior who has signed with the University of Nevada as a catcher, is regarded as a prospect to pitch as a closer out of the bullpen.
"If the need arises, we'd like to use him again," McNutt said. "I thought all three of our pitchers threw well today."
Brolsma was also given the day off from his regular catching duties, though he stayed in the lineup as a designated hitter. He was replaced at catcher by Teixera, who threw out two runners trying to steal second base in the game.
The Senators will be back at home Thursday for the opener of a three-game league series against South Tahoe. The two teams play a doubleheader Saturday in South Lake Tahoe, weather allowing.