RENO — In four of the first five innings on Saturday, Carson High did a poor job of hitting with runners in scoring position.
That changed in the sixth inning.
Carson came up with five straight hits after two outs en route to a five-run inning that carried the Senators to a 5-1 win over Damonte Ranch, earning a split in the two-game series.
Carson improved to 4-2 in Northern Division I play, while Damonte dropped to 3-3. Carson visits Galena Tuesday at 3:45 p.m.
The game was scoreless through the first five, as Chase Blueberg and Damonte’s Matt Olson did a superb job on the hill. Blueberg was able to keep it going, Olson was not.
“It may look like that on the scoreboard that it was (feast or famine),” Carson coach Bryan Manoukian said. “We had quite a few opportunities, but we couldn’t get a hit with runners in scoring position. The kids did a great job of moving runners over and getting the big hit in the sixth.”
Luke Maher led off the sixth with a single, but Olson stepped up and retired Nevin Elliott and Charlie Banfield. Blueberg helped his own cause with a long double to deep right-centerfield, scoring Maher all the way from first. Casey Wolfe followed with a single scoring courtesy runner Joe Birri to make it 2-0. Catcher Zak Harjes slammed a run-scoring double in the left-centerfield gap to drive home Wolfe for a 3-0 lead. Harjes moved to third on a single and T.J. Thomsen extended his league hitting streak to six games with a two-run triple off reliever Alex Hernandez.
That was more than enough cushion for Blueberg, though he did get some defensive help in the bottom of the inning. Blueberg threw 96 pitches, allowing seven hits while striking out eight and walking two.
Blueberg plunked Kyle Bailey with one out. Patrick Wolfe, for the second straight at-bat, drilled a bullet that bounced off Blueberg to the left of the mound. Third baseman Charlie Banfield fired a strike to Maher to retire the slow-footed Wolfe. Bailey tried to go from first to third on the play, but was retired when Maher threw a strike to shortstop Gehrig Tucker who was running stride for stride with Bailey and tagged him out several feet from the third-base bag. Many might call it an aggressive play by Bailey, but not a wise one considering his team trailed by five.
“That was a game-changing play,” Manoukian said. “It was a heads-up play by Charlie to track the ball down and throw a strike to Luke, and Luke made a great play to throw to a guy on the run (Tucker). Gehrig did a great job hustling over there. It was clearly the play of the game.”
It kept Blueberg’s shutout intact, though he lost it in the seventh when Daniel Page hit a one-out homer. Blueberg yielded a walk and single after the round-tripper, but retired Justin Bridgman on a pop-up and then struck out Nate Nolan to end the game.
The 96-pitch effort was Blueberg’s longest of the season. He threw a lot of breaking pitches, especially early in the count. He held the dangerous Nolan to a 1-for-4 day with two strikeouts.
“The coaches noticed that the top of the line-up struggled with breaking pitches,” Blueberg said. “They decided that they wanted to attack them.
“I knew the offense was coming. We were hitting it hard. We started to get it going, and I was glad I helped get it started.”
“They are a very, very good-hitting team,” Manoukian said. “One through nine they can really swing it. If we were going to throw a fastball, we wanted to make sure it wasn’t where they could hurt us.”
Except for the seventh, Damonte put runners to third in the second and fifth innings with one out. In each instance Blueberg retired the next two hitters to end the threat.