There was a different look when Carson High’s baseball team took the field for its opening practice of the 2016 season.
Instead of having a lot of unknown quantities and players changing positions, head coach Bryan Manoukian greeted a group that included 10 full-time returnees from last year’s team that went 18-14, including a 14-8 record in league play.
“We didn’t have to go into as much detail because we had 10 to 12 guys with varsity experience,” Manoukian said prior to the Senators’ scrimmage against Elko and Bishop Manogue in Reno on Saturday. “We could focus on what the team needs to do. It’s been enjoyable.
“This group has been together for a while. We kept this year’s seniors together at the JV level. We have had three good summers with this group. We definitely have set high expectations for ourselves.”
One of the keys will be the pitching staff, which has been less-than-stellar in the last five or six years.
“Pitching depth has been our achilles heel the last three years, four if you count the year I was an assistant,” Manoukian said. “Last year we were battled tested and finished in the middle of the pack. Our focus has been on pitching; all aspects of pitching and developing more pitching.”
Manoukian has 10 players — Bryce Moyle (6-2, 3.23), Kyle Krebs (2-2, 6.00), Joe Nelson (0-3, 6.07), John Holton (2-2, 5.01), Terek Been (1-3, 4.90), Cody Azevedo (4-2, 7.35), Jared Barnard, Cole McDannald, Derek Schafer and Abel Carter — who either pitched varsity last year or logged some innings this past summer. That could be huge if bad weather forces a team to play four or five games in a single week. On paper, this staff is certainly the deepest at CHS in recent years, and could be one of the deepest in the league.
Moyle is the ace of the staff. He splashed onto the varsity scene as a freshman, and led the team in wins last year.
“He worked hard in the off-season and he takes care of his arm,” Manoukian said. “I expect the same kind of year or better from him.”
If the regular season started today and it was a three-game series, Trevor Edis and Holton would be the other starters.
“He (Edis) is a strike thrower,” Manoukian said. “He has decent high school speed and velocity. He works hard and throws a lot of strikes. We want to pitch to contact. When we walk people, we get in trouble. John has been a warrior. When he’s done with his career, he will probably have pitched in as many games as anybody else. He threw a lot as a sophomore.”
Nelson suffered a knee injury during football, and has yet to be cleared medically. Been broke his pelvis stretching for a throw in early July. He could be used as a starter or reliever. Krebs is a solid defensive catcher who also threw 32 innings last year. He isn’t in baseball shape yet, having just joined the team after the recently concluding the state basketball playoffs.
The third catcher on the team is Jayson Artz, who was on the JV squad a year ago.
Been (.294, 12 RBI) and Holton (.317, 19 RBI) will split time at first. Jace Keema (.303, 13 RBI), who was shifted to second during the summer, starts at second. Connor Pradere (.301, 16 RBI) starts at short, and sophomore Abel Carter (.375 in 5 games) along with Holton, share playing time at third. Carter has a strong arm and made a nice move to varsity last spring. Barnard backs up at short and second, and Kellen McDermott is fighting for playing time at second base.
“Terek looks the most confident at the plate,” Manoukian said. “He consistently works hard. Pradere’s arm has gotten stronger. There is a certain rhythm that comes with playing shortstop. I think he’s had enough repetition and feels more comfortable.”
Azevedo (.170) starts in center. Jesse Lopez (.328, 6 RBI), who was hampered by back issues last spring and summer, starts in left. Moyle (.270, 11 RBI) starts in right when he doesn’t pitch. Brandon Gagnon and Kevin Gagnon are also pushing for playing time in right when Moyle pitches. If Nelson (.261, 4 RBI) gets healthy, he figures to see action in right or as a DH. Azevedo is looking to regain the batting prowess he had this past summer.
“Consistency is in the eyes of the beholder,” Manoukian said. “Cody is hard on himself. He is one of the best defensive outfielders we’ve had. Offensively, he needs to get into that summer mindset. During the high school season, his offensive production was sparse. Jesse seems to be healthy. Doctors have determined what the issues were. He played JV soccer and didn’t have any problems.”
Nico Salm and Luke Myers are battling for time in the outfield. Myers could be used as a defensive specialist in the late innings.