RENO — The Carson Blue Jays used the hot bat of Joe Nelson and the legs of Connor Pradere to pull out a 10-9 win over the NorCal Naturals Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the annual High Sierra Classic at Bishop Manogue High School.
Carson continues play in the four-day event with a game against Fernley today at 4 at Manogue. Carson will play twice on Saturday and once on Sunday.
This was a game Carson should have won easily, but relief pitching was off the mark which enabled the Naturals to get back in the game.
Carson used three different hurlers in the seventh inning, and the trio of Derek Schafer, Nelson and Cody Azevedo combined to walk five and give up three hits, including a game-tying grand slam by Jerry Gaiton with two outs. The hit by Gaiton came on the first pitch he saw from Azevedo.
A rally like that could have decimated a team, but the Blue Jays answered right back.
Jace Keema hit a one-out double to the left-centerfield wall and moved to third on John Holton’s hard-hit single to left. Bryce Moyle was walked intentionally to set up a double play. Kevin Gagnon was called out on strikes, leaving it in the hands of Pradere.
Pradere, after falling behind quickly 0-2, took a ball and then barely tipped a pitch to stay alive. On the next pitch, he hit a high bounder over second base and beat the throw to first, scoring Keema with the winning run..
“Connor did a nice job there,” Carson coach Bryan Manoukian said. “He didn’t let the umpire decide it. He put the ball in play and beat it out.
“Our relief pitchers have to come in and throw strikes. They got a couple of hits, but we walked a lot of hitters. Cody came on in a tight situation where he had to throw strikes. The guy was sitting dead red on the fastball.”
While Manoukian did lay into his squad for blowing the seven-run lead, he did praise the team for coming back and getting the win, which was the most important thing.
Carson staked starter Jared Barnard to a quick 6-1 lead after two innings, scoring three in each of its first two at-bats.
Nelson’s two-run triple highlighted the three-run first, while Pradere’s run-scoring double and a two-run single by Kyle Krebs were the key hits in the second-inning uprising.
Bryce Moyle’s double in the third made it 7-1, and it appeared Carson was on its way to a mercy rule victory.
Carson made it 9-1 in the fourth when Krebs singled to left with two outs and scored ahead of Nelson’s towering homer to left. Nelson has regained the stroke he had at the beginning of the high school season.
Barnard, who gave up an unearned run in the first, put up zeros in the second through fifth innings.
NorCal broke through in the sixth for a run to make it 9-2 thanks to an error by Holton and two hits.
Barnard gave way to Schafer, who walked the first batter he faced before retiring the side.
“We have five games in four days, and we need Jared to do other things (like catch),” Manoukian said. “It looked like he was tiring a bit, but I thought he did a great job,”
That set the stage for the seventh when the plate became an invisible object, as Schafer and Nelson struggled to throw strikes. Schafer walked two before departing and Nelson got two outs but gave up three walks and a hit before leaving. Azevedo gave up two straight hits before getting the last out of the inning