For all intents and purposes, the Northern 4A baseball playoffs start on Wednesday night at Ron McNutt Field.
That’s when rivals Carson and Douglas, separated by just a game in the standings, start their season-ending series with the eighth and final playoff spot up for grabs.
Carson entered Saturday at 6-12 and a game behind the Tigers. The Senators went out and swept a doubleheader from Wooster, 10-0 and 9-4, to move one game ahead of the Tigers, who dropped a doubleheader at Galena.
Carson can clinch the final spot with a win on Senior Night. A loss, and the teams will play for the spot Thursday afternoon at Tiger Field.
“Essentially I view it as a play-in game (series) for both teams,” Carson coach Bryan Manoukian said, referring to the two-game set. “This is always the way it seems to be. The last four or five years the games have been really good, and I don’t expect anything less.”
Senior Ben Nelson is the likely starter for the Senators on Wednesday. He pitched six strong innings in a 3-2 loss to Damonte Ranch on Thursday. “Ben has been pitching really well,” Manoukian said. “That (Wednesday) is the only game on my mind right now.”
Jared Barnard got plenty of support in the opener. Carson scored four in the first, three in the fourth and three more in the sixth. The game ended with two outs in the sixth because of the 10-run rule.
Barnard threw 97 pitches in going the distance. He struck out six and walked five in his 2-hit effort.
“I just tried to throw strikes,” Barnard said. “I was trying to pitch to contact. It worked out pretty well.”
“Jared threw OK,” Manoukian said. “He had some location issues, but he made big pitches when he needed them.”
A single by Joe Tonino and walks to Kahle Good and Landon Truesdale loaded the bases. After Barnard lined out, Teigen Key walked to force home a run. Colby Zemp followed with perhaps his biggest hit of the season, a 3-run double that made it 4-0.
The Senators made it 7-0 in the fourth. Key singled and was replaced on the basepaths by Kenny Aydelott. After a Zemp walk, Aydelott stole third and scored on a single by Delsin Roberts, who was caught stealing moments later. After Kyle Glanzmann walked, Abel Carter hit a RBI double and Tonino followed with a run-scoring single.
“Once Joe made that adjustment at the plate and started hitting the ball the opposite way instead of looking for pitches to pull, he’s done a good job,” Manoukian said.
In the sixth, triples by Carter and Tonino plus a single by Truesdale ended the game with two outs in the sixth.
Tonino went 3-for-4, while Carter, Truesdale and Roberts all had two hits.
The second game looked like a slugfest with Wooster holding a 4-3 lead after two innings.
Carson starter Avery Powell and Glanzmann held Wooster to just two hits over the last five innings. Powell worked the first four, allowing just one earned run. Glanzmann threw the final three and didn’t allow a run.
The Senators took the lead for good with two runs in the fourth.
Roberts singled to center, advanced to third on Glanzmann’s double and scored on Carter’s sacrifice fly to left. Wooster made a pitching change two batters later, and Good greeted Alex Miller with a run-scoring single to make it 5-4.
In the sixth, Tonino delivered a two-run triple and Good added a run-scoring double. An error accounted for Carson’s final run.
Good led the offense with three hits, and Glanzmann, Carter and Tonino added two each.