Carson High opened some eyes last spring with a 16-6 regular-season record, the best in coach Bryan Manoukian’s tenure.
The summer team, the Carson Blue Jays, have kept the ball rolling with a 17-7 record entering the weekend, an impressive record when you consider offensive stars like Connor Pradere, Kyle Krebs and Cody Azevedo have moved on.
“I don’t think the record is any better than we expected,” said Manoukian. “We have been in a lot of close games. Five of our seven losses have been walk-off losses. A lot of games could have gone either way. We could have had four or five more losses.”
The Senators have always been a gritty team, a reflection of CHS coaches Manoukian, Matt Morgan and Joe Tierney, who took the summer off to coach Little League.
The team has always displayed a never-say-die attitude under Manoukian. You play Carson and no lead is safe against the Senators. The Blue Jays have exploded for several come-from-behind wins this summer.
The summer is all about moving returners into new roles, returning players maturing, and figuring out roles for the players coming up from the JV squad.
Two players up from the JV team who have stood out are outfielder Landon Truesdale and pitcher Ben Nelson.
Truesdale is hitting .400 with 12 RBI, and barring unforeseen problems, is going to start in left or right. Nelson, the younger brother of Joe Nelson, has compiled a 5-1 record with a 1.90 ERA over 22 innings pitched.
“At the start of the summer, we give all of our guys opportunities and let them separate themselves out,” Manoukian said. “Landon has done that, especially offensively. He is hitting .400 and playing pretty good defense. He has made some inexperienced plays, missing cut-off men and dropping routine flyballs. He’s our No. 2 outfielder, and we’re still looking for a third and fourth outfielder.
“Ben has come into games in relief, held teams down and picked up some wins. We’re not sure whether he’s a starter or reliever. Two years ago we had a four-man rotation, and last year we had a three-man rotation (until the doubleheaders).”
One of the biggest questions in the summer was finding a shortstop when Jared Barnard pitches. Manoukian has played both Jace Keema and Abel Carter there, and Keema appears to be the likely choice.
“Jared was gone for much of the Manogue tournament, and Jace played every game there,” Manoukian said. “Jace did a very good job, and he’ll improve.”
Also of interest is the transformation of Jesse Lopez from the No. 9 spot to the lead-off spot. Lopez is hitting .421 with 20 RBI. He was the best No. 9 hitter in the league last year, and he has a good chance to make that same claim at the No. 1 spot. He’s a good line-drive hitter with excellent speed.
“He’s done a pretty good job,” Manoukian said. “He’s learning when he needs to be a lead-off type.”
Translation. There are times when you need to work the count and see a lot of pitches, and that’s usually when you’re leading off an inning or game. Other times you’re just a hitter.
Bryce Moyle is enjoying an exceptional summer, and that’s not a big surprise. He’s hitting a robust and team-leading .565 with a team-leading 39 RBI. He’s 5-0 with a 1.88 ERA, allowing 18 hits over 26 innings.
“He’s been our best offensive player,” Manoukian said. “We have played a lot of teams not in our area; teams that don’t know him and his strengths and weaknesses.
“Manogue and Galena and Reno know how to pitch him. The teams we are playing in the tournament at North Valleys and Spanish Springs are teams I don’t think we’ve seen before. Bryce has better idea of what really are his pitches (to hit) and what to do with them.”
With the departure of Krebs, Carson will need a good RBI guy in either the 3, 4 or 5 hole next spring, and hopefully Moyle can step into that role.