Senators baseball escapes with win
BY MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer
With the Sierra League season winding down, the Carson Senators baseball team nearly saw their carefully constructed 7-3 lead over North Valleys slip away in the top of the seventh inning Thursday at Ron McNutt Field.
With two outs, the bases loaded and the tying run - Josh Mathis - racing home from third base on a passed ball, catcher Paul Cagle and closer David Perce didn't panic and did what they had to do to preserve the 7-6 victory for the Senators.
The stocky Cagle showed cat-quick reflexes in reaching the ball, which bounced off the backstop, and Perce, who had allowed three runs, four hits and faced nine hitters in the inning, beat Mathis to the plate, fielded Cagle's throw and made the tag to end the drama.
Fourth-place Carson improved to 8-5 in league and 17-11 overall in holding off the sixth-place Panthers, who are now 4-9, 6-17, after graduating 10 seniors following their first-ever postseason appearance (they finished last season 19-14).
"It was a passed ball - I should've got it," said Cagle, who hit a three-run double to give Carson a 4-2 lead in the third inning. "I got there a little late. I had to get back as quick as I could - I knew (Mathis) was coming home. I got a good bounce. It's a good thing Perce was covering home and got there."
"That's what we have to do to grind some games out," said Carson coach Steve Cook. "Offensively we had opportunities. We played small ball and were able to put up some runs in the third and we played just good enough defense out there."
Not only that, but the Senators got a Thursday bugaboo off their back.
"This is big," Cagle said. "It was our first Thursday game win since Hug. We lost to Reno, Douglas and Damonte (Ranch)."
Junior Tyler Smith, who recently was filling the long reliever role for Carson, got the start and went five innings, allowing six hits, three runs and two walks.
"He got the start today based on his work ethic," Cook said. "He's coming on strong. He threw well today. He hit enough spots to get through and he let our defense work for us."
North Valleys took a 2-0 lead in the second inning off an RBI single by catcher Adam Kliensmidt and an RBI double by shortstop Jason Rasmusson, who went 4-for-4.
The Senators rallied in the third, sending nine runners the plate and scoring five runs.
First baseman Brett Valley, who went 3-for-4 with two runs batted in, singled in Dustin Buttner before Cagle added three more runs with his double in the right alley. Cagle later came home on a Panthers error on a Cody Barr fielder's choice to give Carson a 5-2 lead.
Valley has been peaking as of late, with 10 hits in his last 15 at bats for a .667 average in that four-game span. He added an RBI single to give the Senators a 7-3 lead in the sixth.
"He's on fire for us right now," Cook said of Valley, a junior, who has worked his way into the leadoff slot for Carson. "He always seems to get on base for us. You look at the stat sheet and see he's been on base four or five times a game. You want your leadoff guy getting on base, so we put him up there (in the slot)."
"We've been seeing some pretty good pitchers," Valley said. "Damonte had some great pitchers, North Valleys has some good guys. It seems to be right there for me. I have the same approach. Earlier this year I was in the six-hole; all of a sudden in one game I moved up."
Tyler Osborne went the distance for the Panthers, giving up eight hits and seven earned runs. He also walked one, hit one batter and struck out six.
"That kid did a good job on the hill," Cook said of Osborne. "He kept changing speeds and didn't throw fastballs. "
David Charles pitched the sixth inning for the Senators, striking out two of the three batters he faced.
"We were debating a little whether to keep Charles in or go to David Perce," Cook said. "Hindsight is 20-20, but Perce is our guy. If the same situation comes up Saturday (against North Valleys), we'll put him in. He needs to get to work sooner than loading the bases with no outs."
Perce gave up a single to Zach Kovich to open the inning, walked Kliensmidt and surrendered a single to Rasmusson to load the bases before striking out pinch hitter Tyler Molder for the first out of the inning.
Perce surrendered an RBI single to Mathis, who scored Kovich. Cody Croxon followed with an RBI single to score Kleinsmidt before Perce fanned Osborne.
Perce followed by walking pinch hitter Zach Barone, bringing home Rasmusson to make it 7-6, with Mitch Van Ronk coming to the plate. Perce was ahead of Van Ronk 1-2 before the passed ball and he and Cagle made the game-winning play.
"Thursday games are the most important," Cook said. "When you get the first game of the series, it gives you an edge. We haven't been playing very well on Thursdays. I don't know what it is, whether it's the time or school or whatever it is."
Carson will now try claw its way closer to a playoff berth when it travels to Golden Valley for a doubleheader beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
"This was a big one for us," Cook said. "Our goal is take all three of the games, but we're going to take them one game at a time."
NORTH VALLEYS 12, CHS JVS 11
Colby Blueberg went 4-for-4, Anthony Torkeo and David Feltner each had two hits, Shea Bondi and Bryce Altus each went 3-for-5 and Cameron Mayville, Dom Mariani and Connor Beattie all added a hit in the loss for Carson.