Valerius, Senators shut down Wooster
BY MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer
As he warmed up prior to Thursday's Carson-Wooster game, Senators senior pitcher Rob Valerius was already aware that Carson needed to defeat the Colts in order to stay alive in its drive for the third seed in the upcoming NIAA Northern 4A regional championships.
But as the game wore on, another realization dawned on the 6-foot-3, 210-pound left-hander: It was his last appearance on the mound at Ron McNutt Field.
"I realized it in the fifth inning," Valerius said. "I definitely wanted to win to cap off my senior season - besides the playoffs. I don't think it's hit me yet."
And with the exception of four hits, neither did the Colts' batters.
The determination of Valerius was evident as he struck out nine batters on the way to pitching a complete game in leading Carson to a 4-1 victory over Wooster.
Carson, now 14-6 in the Sierra League and 24-12 overall, stayed tied for third with Damonte Ranch with one game to go in the regular season. The Senators, who own the tiebreaker with the Mustangs, will likely need a final win today against the Colts (8-12, 13-17) to nail down the No. 3 seed.
Damonte Ranch closes its season today against the winless Hug Hawks.
"There was a little more motivation for this one," said Valerius, who improved to 3-1 on the season. " We all wanted this one. I was really glad we scored early on these guys."
Colts starter Doug Carl had a respectable outing, going four-plus innings, giving up three runs, six hits, one walk and hit three batters.
Junior Paul Cagle gave Carson a 1-0 lead in the third inning with an RBI double down the left-field line, which scored shortstop Markus Adams. Although he added another RBI double to score third baseman Kyle Stone to put Carson up 2-0 in the fifth, it wasn't the biggest hit of the night for the 5-foot-11, 225-pounder.
That would come in the top of the sixth inning, when Cagle gave "three yards and a cloud of dust" a whole new meaning. With Carson up 3-1 with one out and the bases loaded, Wooster shortstop Spencer Lewis tried to steal home, but Cagle had moved toward third to field a pitchout from Valerius and collided heavily with the speeding Lewis.
The human car wreck didn't budge Cagle, but Lewis hit the ground hard, kicking up a thick cloud of dust, drawing some oohs and aahs from the stands and prompting Wooster head coach Ron Malcolm to unleash his frustration at the home plate umpire.
"I just stood in front of the plate and he didn't slow down," Cagle said. "I didn't try to put a hard tag on him or anything. I just stood in front of the plate like I was supposed to."
Carson coach Steve Cook stood up for Cagle.
"There is a malicious conduct rule, but it looked worse than it was," he said. "Our guy won by a lot. It was a pretty big stick. We preach to our catcher that the dish is sacred. You don't give it up. The guy (Lewis) didn't slow down. He was out by a lot. Paulie didn't give in. Paulie didn't flinch."
Neither did the Senators, who were facing a fourth-seed if they lost the game.
Cagle, who was hit by a pitch thrown by reliever Max Garza (who gave up one run, two hits and one walk in three innings), finished 2-for-3 with two RBI.
"The guy (Carl) threw a lot of offspeed," Cagle said. "I told myself to sit back and wait for it. I just wanted to get 'em on, get 'em over and get 'em in."
First baseman Cody Barr went 2-for-4 and hit an RBI double to score Cagle to make it 3-0 in the fifth. After Andrew Galindo knocked in Erik Stousland to give Wooster its only run in the sixth, Adams (1-for-3) hit an RBI single to score pinch runner Tyler Hutchins and round out the scoring.
From there on, it was all Valerius, who induced pinch hitter Michael Evans to ground into a double play and struck out Jimmy Williams to end the game.
"I'm real happy. We're playing well," Valerius said. "We need to get things going early. We'll get better."
"We're just taking it one game at a time and just keep playing," Cagle said. "This way we play our best and build up some momentum for zone. Robbie threw a great game, kept the ball down and hit his spots."
Cook also commended Valerius.
"He threw the ball exceptionally well today," Cook said. "We were gonna take the ball out of his hand the last inning. He told us no way. I told him if there was a foul ball or a stiff breeze...we let him work his way through it. He's using his defense now. He's throwing three pitches for strikes and attacking both sides of the plate."
Now it's down to one game for Carson. If it can beat Wooster today, Carson will play the High Desert League's No. 2 seed in the first round of the regionals.
"One more. We've gotta get one more," Cook said. "All this hard work to get to these two (wins over the Colts) would be all for naught. It wouldn't crush us. We already have a seat at the table. But our goal is the 3-spot - you set goals as a team. Senior Day: That's the focus."
Carson will say goodbye today to its eight seniors: Drew Good, Adams, Cody Bone, Stephen Sawyers, Valerius, Jeff Butler, David Eller and David Perce.
Today's game begins at 3:30 p.m. at Ron McNutt Field.
CARSON JVS 4, WOOSTER 3
Shea Bondi's fifth-inning RBI double gave the Senators a comeback victory over the Colts. Starter Dom Mariani pitched a complete game, allowing three runs, six hits and no walks, while striking out four.
Cameron Mayville went 2-for-3 and Brice Altus 1-for-3 and each added an RBI. Connor Beattie, Jeff Davies and Danny Gall each added one hit for Carson, which is now 9-10 in league play and 16-15 overall.
Carson overcame a 2-0 Wooster lead after one to tie it in the second, then battled back to tie it 3-3 in the third after the Colts went back up earlier in the inning.
The Senators conclude their season with a doubleheader Saturday at 10 a.m.