SPARKS — Zak Harjes has made two starts this year for Carson, and both of them have been golden.
Harjes threw five innings of shutout ball, and Luke Maher and Gehrig Tucker drove in two runs apiece to lead the Senators to a 5-2 win over Spanish Springs in the championship game of the Spanish Springs Tournament Friday afternoon.
The win was the fifth straight for the Senators, who improved to 13-8 overall for the season. Carson returns to action at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday at McQueen as league play resumes.
Harjes started against Hug before the Easter break and dropped a tough 2-1 decision, though he certainly pitched well enough to win.
Against the Cougars, he allowed a first-inning single to Lucas Jones, and then retired 13 of the next 14 hitters against the short-handed Cougars who were missing four starters. He departed after the sixth when he gave up two runs and three hits.
“When we showed up today he (coach Bryan Manoukian) told me I was pitching,” Harjes said. “It doesn’t affect me if I don’t know whether I’m pitching or not. I’m going to play hard no matter where he puts me. I just want to play. In the sixth, I started leaving my change-up up. I wasn’t following through. My curveball was breaking really well today. That was probably my best pitch.”
“Zak pitched an outstanding game, especially for as long as it’s been between appearances,” Manoukian said. “The amount of catching we ask him to do, he was pretty rusty in the first inning, but he settled down after that.”
Carson threatened in the first against Garrett Covington when Gehrig Tucker singled and moved to third on a double by Luke Maher, who has a three-game hit streak, Jace Zampirro flied out to end the inning.
The Senators broke the scoreless tie in the fourth with four runs on five hits and two Spanish Springs errors.
With one out, Dom Norton singled to left, stole second and scored on Tucker’s second single of the day. Maher followed with a high fly ball that cleared the fence in left despite a nice effort by Jones. That made it 3-0, but Carson wasn’t done. Zampirro had an infield single and eventually scored on a throwing error.
Tucker has gone 3-for-5 in two games since moving down to No. 3 in the order. Maher is 4-for-10 during his three-game hit streak with six RBIs.
“Gehrig didn’t do anything wrong,” Manoukian said. “It’s more about what Dom Norton was doing at the bottom of the order, hitting behind runners and bunting them over. That’s why we moved him up to No. 2 (from No. 9) and moved everybody down one spot. Gehrig is swinging it very well. He’s made a few adjustments lately. Luke is close to really breaking out.”
Tucker said he didn’t mind getting moved to the third spot. He said it’s different mindset, and that he’s trying to hit the ball to the opposite field.
The Senators made it 5-0 in the bottom of the fourth when T.J. Thomsen doubled, moved to third on Norton’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Tucker’s single. After Maher popped up, Zampirro singled to center, and the Cougars’ Gehrig Parks made a sensational throw to nail the sliding Tucker to end the inning.
The Cougars broke through in the top of the sixth when Kyle Messer singled and reached second on an error by Maher. After Parks singled, Harjes issued his third walk of the game to load the bases. Jake Haley singled home Messer, and Jeff McCusker followed with a hard shot near the first-base bag. Zampirro elected to get the out at first, allowing Parks to score the Cougars’ final run of the game.
Danny Guthrie came on to pitch the seventh, and despite two walks and an infield single, he held the Cougars scoreless.
Carson is hoping the tournament success can catapult them up the standings. The Senators have series’ left against McQueen, Reno, Bishop Manougue, Spanish Springs and Douglas.
“As long as we play our game, I think we’re a very tough team to beat,” Tucker said. “We have a lot of solid players on our team. That game (against Reed) showed that we can play to that (high) level.”