If you watched Carson High's non-league baseball game against Bishop Manogue Tuesday night, you indeed would have trouble telling the players without a scorecard.
There were six different position starters and a new designated hitter, as head coach Steve Cook took the opportunity to play some of his less-experienced players.
The Senators played on even terms for five innings, but fell victim in the sixth and seventh innings to Manogue's strong offense en route to a 9-3 loss at Ron McNutt Field.
"You are only as strong as your worst player," Cook said, explaining his decision to switch around the lineup. "That's how good you are. We'll get better in the long run. We have to know whether some guys can or can't do it.
"I thought we played strong baseball for six innings. They scored four in the seventh, and it's tough to come back from six (behind). Manogue swung it really well. They hit a lot of balls hard. We made four errors, and errors will kill you. In high school, if you play perfect defense, you are going to get a win."
Manogue coach Charles Oppio was pleased with the win and his team's offense in the last couple of innings.
"We had a good approach to hitting," Oppio said. "The kids seemed focused late in the game. We had a lot of good at-bats."
Two of those at-bats belonged to Brett Hinckley, the Miners' huge first baseman.
With the score tied at 3 in the sixth, Hinckley lined a Tony Fagan fastball over the fence in right to make it 4-3 with one out. Andy Oroz singled and moved to second when Carson second baseman Markus Adams mishandled J.C. Conway's batted ball. Dom Quillici grounded a ball to Kevin Schlange, who flipped to Adams for the second out. However, Adams threw wildly past first, allowing Oroz to score from second base for a 5-3 lead.
Carson put together a small rally in the bottom of the inning when Logan Parsley was safe on an error and Jeremiah Teeter singled. However, Nick Smallman popped out to first and Rob Valerius popped out to the mound.
Cook took Fagan out after the sixth inning, and said he was pleased with the right-hander's effort.
"I thought Tony pitched well," Cook said. "I liked his demeanor on the mound. He gave us an opportunity to win the game, and that's all you can ask. We tried to stretch him out (innings wise), and we told him we were going to do that because he hadn't gotten that many innings lately."
Kyle Mandoki started the seventh for Carson, and he gave up a two-run single to Matt Lawrence and a two-run double to Hinckley before leaving the game in favor of Valerius, who retired the side without further damage.
Carson went down in order in the seventh against Oroz, who allowed only one hit and two baserunners in his three innings of relief for starter Matt Aboumrab.
"Those guys haven't pitched much this year," Oppio said. 'I'm proud of them. Matt was falling behind the hitters. Oroz came in and threw strikes."
The Senators managed seven hits, six of those coming in the third and fourth innings when they scored all their runs.
"We didn't have a lot of offense tonight," Cook said matter-of-factly.
And, for the third straight game, the Senators made some critical mistakes on the bases and at the plate, two of them coming in the second inning.
David Leid walked, moved to second on a passed ball and to third on Jeremiah Teeter's sacrifice bunt. Cook gave the squeeze sign to Smallman, who instead of bunting, swung and missed the pitch. Leid was a dead duck at the plate. And, to make matters worse, Johnny Hazeltine tried to take third on a short wild pitch and was thrown out at third.
In the fourth, Valerius drove in Teeter with the tying run, but was sent to second when the throw went through to the plate, and Manogue catcher Tony Lujan fired a strike to second to throw him out. Jack Maloney, who had doubled in a run earlier, lined to third to end the inning.
"We need to get better on the bases," Cook admitted. "We have lulls on the bases.
"He (Smallman) missed a sign. He said he saw it, but he couldn't tell me what happened. Johnny's was an over-aggressive mistake. If we're going to make mistakes, I'd rather they be over-aggressive ones."
Notes: Cook still doesn't know where the South Tahoe series will be played. He said the NIAA is entering into the fray because South Tahoe appears to be waffling on the site ... Adams had a tough game for the Senators in the field, making four errors which led to a few unearned runs ... Four of the new starters - Smallman, Valerius, Adams and Maloney - all had one hit.