On a day when Carson High power hitters Willie Bowman, Mike Handley and Cameron Leck went a combined 3-for-10 with a run and two RBI, the Senators desperately needed help from the bottom of their batting order.
Murphy Gardner, Kevin Schlange, Dave Nelsen and Danny Rotter came through. The quartet went a combined 5-for-13 with seven runs and an RBI to help Carson dismantle Spanish Springs 11-5 in the first round of the 4A regional playoffs Wednesday night at Ron McNutt Field.
The win sends the Senators into the winner's bracket game at 6 p.m. tonight at Reno against McQueen, a 4-3 upset winner over Sierra League champ Reno. The Huskies will host Spanish Springs today at 3.
Gardner got the chance to hit because of an injury to second baseman Logan Parsley, who could only play in the infield. Gardner made the most of the chance, going 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
"Murph did a great job," Carson coach Ron McNutt said. "Logan wasn't able to hit, and Murphy has been working real hard all year, and he came through tonight. The coaches and I sat down and decided to put him at designated hitter, and he did a good job. I'm really happy for him."
"Murph was excited to be in there," Rotter said. "It was either his first or second start. He sat on a fastball and took it the other way (in the fifth)."
Rotter has had some pressure on him, too. He's filling in for Jeff Hurzel, who was recently suspended for breaking team rules.
"I definitely had to step up with Hurzel out," Rotter said. "I knew I had to come up big because he was always on base."
The aforementioned foursome was right in the middle of Carson's first offensive thrust. The Senators took a 2-0 lead in the second on singles by Gardner, Nelsen and Rotter plus a walk to Schlange. All four reached base after two outs.
After Spanish Springs scored a run off starter/winner Eric Melendez in the bottom of the second, Carson scored four in the fourth and five in the fifth to take a commanding 11-1 lead. Four walks, three hit batsmen and doubles by Handley and Gardner plus singles by Melendez, Schlange and Leck accounted for the runs.
The Senators were three outs away from ending the game in the fifth, but couldn't put the Cougars away. Spanish Springs scored three in the fifth and added one in the sixth, much to McNutt's chagrin.
"Real good baseball teams have the killer instinct," McNutt said. "If you get a chance to put a team away, you put the harpoon in and turn it. We didn't do that when we had the chance."
McNutt praised the work of Melendez, who allowed three hits over the first four innings. He was the victim of a couple of errors in the final two innings. Melendez scattered seven hits and kept the ball down.
"He did an outstanding job," McNutt said. "You couldn't ask for a better job. He's been a reliever all year. He had the curveball working and he stayed ahead in the count most of the game."
McNutt expected to be playing in the winner's bracket today, but he expected to be facing Reno, not McQueen.
"I've been around a long time, and nothing surprises me with high school kids," McNutt said. "In this game anything can happen. If they (McQueen) can beat Reno, they'll have something left. They are probably very high (excited) now."
And, McNutt expects the Senators to be just as excited and ready to pull off another win, which would put Carson into a nice position.
Notes: It was key that Melendez was able to go the distance. It still leaves McNutt with three starters - Handley, Jason Alcasas and Wes Osmer. It's critical in the sense that Carson could have as many as three games left. Osmer or Handley are expected to start against McQueen... Melendez also helped himself at the plate with a double and single.
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281.