What a difference a year makes.
A year ago, Murph Gardner and Mike Teixeira were just blimps on the radar screen in the Carson High baseball program. Gardner was a backup catcher/infielder, who got little playing times, and Teixeira was a junior pitching on the JV squad after not playing his first years at the school.
The duo worked extremely hard over the summer and this past fall improved their games, and are a big reason why Carson made the playoffs under first-year head coach Steve Cook. The Senators face Galena tonight at 6 at Ron McNutt Field.
Gardner, a spray hitter, hit .400 for the season (40 for 100) with a homer and 34 RBI. His only homer was a grand slam against South Tahoe. Texeira was 4-4 with a 5.02 ERA. The latter stat is a bit misleading. He yielded 12 earned runs against Reno in a five-inning stint, which caused the ERA to balloon.
Gardner has wiped out the disappointment of last year and become one of the leaders of the young team. Complaining isn't his thing. He just goes about his business everyday in a true workmanlike way.
"I'm pretty happy with what I've done," Gardner said before Monday's practice. "I think I could have done better. I try to be the team player; lay down the sacrifice bunt when it's needed. I don't worry about batting average and stuff like that."
Cook is pleased, but not surprised at Gardner's offensive numbers this year. Hitting has always been Gardner's forte.
"Murph was a player without a position (last year)," Cook said. "I always knew he could swing it, but with a senior-laden team there was not a place he fit in. He kind of sat around and paid his dues. During the summer we played him behind the dish and at third base, and he did a pretty good job.
"During his first year with the Cardinals (as a sophomore) we were playing in the Reno Knights tournament, and he (Gardner) hits three doubles against the right field wall off varsity guys. He's always been able to swing. That's the one thing that kept him in the lineup. He's a gap-to-gap guy."
And, he has come up with some big hits, too.
He delivered a two-run single in last Thursday's extra-inning victory over Douglas. His hit in the seventh tied the game and sent it to extra innings.
"That was awesome," Gardner said. "They were undefeated. It wouldn't have been as great if it was a different opponent."
Gardner had two hits and drove in two more runs against Douglas two days later. His only homer of the year was the aforementioned grand slam against South Tahoe helping the Senators beat the Vikings.
Gardner had never played first base at Carson until this year. Cook said he gave Gardner a first baseman's glove during basketball season.
"I told him he was hitting and playing first base," Cook said. "At the beginning of the year he was DH'ing and playing first base. When Wes (Osmer) got hurt, Murphy went to first."
And, Cook said that Gardner has been steadily improving there.
Teixeira didn't play baseball his first two years at Carson. He opted to play golf instead. He felt he needed a break from the game after playing in the local Carson leagues until he reached high school.
Teixeira got the bug to play again, lost 30 pounds and played on the JV team, which is a bit unusual for a junior. There wasn't going to be a lot of available innings for the pitching-deep Senators, so he opted to play at the lower level.
"I think it was great to get all that experience," Teixeira said. "I pitched a lot of innings. On JV, I got to pitch once a week, sometimes more. I got in better shape."
Teixeira credits pitching coach Scott Albans for his success this season. Cook also credits Teixeira for his work ethic.
"He pitched for us this past summer," Cook said. "We challenged him. We told him that if this was something he really wanted to do that he had to give us everything he had. The two years he sat out did retard his progress a little. I also think he had a bad arm, too."
Teixeira said it took some time to build his arm strength back up, but he readily admits to being a finesse pitcher. The better control he has with his off-speed pitches, the more success he will enjoy.
What sets Teixeira apart from other pitchers is his competitive nature. You won't find a guy that wants to win more than he does. All he ever wants to do is pitch well enough to give the Senators a chance to win.
And, he's done that on more than one occasion. He thrw five innings of shutout ball against Hug, allowed only one earned run against North Valleys, allowed one earned run in 5 1/3 innings against Douglas and pitched 2 1/3 innings of relief against Bishop Manogue.
"I thought I was hitting my spots against Douglas," he said. "When I won at North Valleys I had a real low pitch count."
His only poor outing was the Reno game, and the coaching staff kept him in longer because some of Carson's pitchers were injured, and Teixeira needed to eat up some innings. He kept battling in true Teixeira fashion even though his command was nowhere to be found that day.
Darrell Moody can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281
4A REGIONAL PLAYOFFS
AT CARSON HIGH
3 p.m. - Bishop Manogue vs. Douglas
6 p.m. - Galena vs. Carson
AT RENO HIGH
3 p.m. - Reed vs. Reno
6 p.m. - Wooster vs. Spanish Springs