RENO - After starting off their season 7-0 and battering their opposition by a combined score of 90-20, the Carson Senators came out on the wrong end of a tournament slugfest with McQueen Wednesday at Manogue High School.
The Lancers - last year's Northern 4A region runner-up - improved to 5-1 on the season with an 18-9 victory over Carson in an error-filled game loaded with offense.
McQueen, which eliminated Carson, 9-7, in the zone semifinals last year, outhit the Senators, 15-14, and committed three errors to Carson's five in the Manogue Tournament.
"I thought we showed a lot of good things today in terms of character," said Carson coach Steve Cook. "Those kids at McQueen are relentless swinging the bats. Every time they scored, we came back. They put a four-spot on us (in the bottom of the fifth inning) and we came back with a three-spot (in the top of the sixth). But an eight-spot is tough to ask your team to come back from."
That eight-spot for the Lancers came in the bottom of the sixth. And while they didn't knock the Senators out with a 10-run mercy rule, the Lancers' 18-9 lead was big enough, as Carson couldn't rally in the seventh.
Thirteen McQueen batters came to the plate in the sixth, working over reliever Joe Skates (five unearned runs, four hits and two walks in 1/3 of an inning) and Matt Rutledge (two earned runs, three hits and one walk in 2/3 of an inning) to put the game out of reach.
Carson trailed 10-6 entering the sixth and closed the gap to one run on shortstop Bryt Lewis' two-run homer to right field and first baseman Rob Valerius' sacrifice fly to right, which scored Paul Cagle.
Lewis went 2-for-5 with 3 RBI, including a fielder's choice in the first, which brought in second baseman Markus Adams to give Carson a 1-0 lead.
McQueen lowered the boom on Skates when starter Kyle Stewart (3-for-4) opened with a double and reached home on a catching error by Adams at first to make it 11-9.
Pinch hitter Andrew Gustin reached on a single and, after Skates walked Jeffrey Surina, leadoff hitter Ryan Mirch's sacrifice bunt drove in Josh McCarthy, who also reached base on a sacrifice bunt, for a 12-9 lead.
Skates walked Tyler York to load the bases when shortstop Brian Barnett (3-for-5, 3 RBI) hit an RBI-single and a throwing error by Lewis to first bumped McQueen's lead to 14-9.
Luke Feiler (4-for-4) singled up the middle for two runs and after Rutledge came in for Skates, he surrendered a two-run homer to Jared Murphy to round out the scoring for McQueen.
"We just got beat by nine runs, but that sixth inning was a learning experience for our kids," Cook said. "We've been putting it on teams. It's good to get some humble pie. We did a good job for the first seven games. Now we see how we rank in the North. We see Galena (today) and Manogue (on Friday). We'll also see Reed later this season. We'll find out exactly where we stand."
It was a bit of a flashback for Cook, who normally coaches from third base. He was ejected against McQueen in zone last year for arguing calls and on Wednesday he ended up being banished to the bench in the third inning.
"I was grounded to the dugout," Cook said with a grin. "I'm not sure why. Bryt Lewis wore a pitch in the back (it wasn't ruled a hit by pitch). I said something I guess he (the plate umpire) didn't like. The last time we faced McQueen (in zone) on this field, I was in a jayvee dugout. Umpiring wasn't the reason we lost. It was the five errors and too many walks (six)."
The costliest error came after Carson just tied the game at 6 when Cagle scored on a wild pitch in the fifth. Starter Nick Smallman (who gave up seven hits and six runs - four of them earned - in four innings) loaded the bases by hitting one batter and walking another, then Barnett hit a sky-high shot to left, which Rutledge lost in the sun and, with two out, all three runners scored. Feiler's follow-up single made it 10-6.
Smallman struck out five batters, but hit four others. Skates took the loss for Carson, while McQueen reliever Gustin took the win, going 2 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs and five hits, while walking one and striking out two.
Tyler Smith went one inning for Carson in relief of Smallman, giving up four unearned runs and one hit.
Rutledge (2-for 4, 2 RBI) gave the Senators a 2-0 lead with an RBI-single in the second.
McQueen tied it in the bottom of the inning on a throwing error to first (Feiler scored after being hit by a pitch) and when Murphy scored with the bases loaded after Mirch was hit by a pitch.
Barnett hit a 370-foot blast to make it 3-2 in the third before Carson rallied with two runs in the fourth. Right fielder Tony Fagan (2-for-3) hit a 375-foot shot to left-center and Rutledge had an RBI-single to center for a brief 4-3 Carson lead.
McQueen answered with three more runs in the bottom of the inning on a York RBI-triple, a Barnett RBI-double and a Feiler RBI-double.
"Bryt Lewis hit the ball well for us, Tony Fagan hit the ball well for us," Cook said of his team's fight. "McQueen had one more hit than us, but five errors is a lot to give up - especially to a team like McQueen, who will punish you with the extra outs."
Cook said the Manogue Tournament has been a boon for his team.
"(Manogue coach Charles) Oppio was kind enough to let us in this tournament," Cook said. "This year our spring break got screwed up and we didn't go anywhere. It's a great opportunity to see some local teams. Instead of facing them in zone and not knowing anything about them, this way we get to see them for ourselves. And with this weather, you can't ask for better."
Cook, whose team went 24-10 last season, said the loss to McQueen wasn't the end of the world.
"You've got to make a positive out of a negative," he said. "One positive today is that we were able to come back. Unless the loss is the last one of the year to end the season, you can let it go."
Fagan is expected to start today against the Grizzlies. The game begins at 3 p.m. at Manogue High School.