Carson baseball falls to Reno
Appeal Sports Writer
Patience went a long way toward keeping Reno High alive in the Northern 4A Regional Baseball Tournament on Thursday afternoon.
At the same time, inability to throw strikes went a long way toward bringing the season to an end for the Carson Senators, who dropped a 9-8 verdict in nine innings to the Reno Huskies in an elimination game at Ron McNutt Field.
Reno (24-10) scored twice in the sixth inning to tie the score and send the game to extra innings, then the Huskies scored twice in the ninth to come from behind and remain alive in their quest to win a third straight regional championship.
For Carson (22-13), it was the second straight one-run loss on its home field in this tournament. The Senators scored three runs in the final two innings of a 4-3 opening-round loss against Galena on Wednesday.
This time the Senators were unable to protect leads of 7-2 and 8-7, and the primary culprit were walks and hit batsmen. Three Carson pitchers combined to issue 11 walks (one was intentional) and hit two batters – five of those came around to score.
“That’s been our M.O. toward the end of the season,” Carson coach Steve Cook said. “Our inability to throw strikes, walking leadoff hitters, things like that hurt, especially against a team like Reno that’s well coached. And even when we weren’t walking guys, we kept running the count to 2-1, 3-1. When you play good teams, they’re going to take advantage.”
That’s exactly what the Huskies did.
“We were taking pitches early. We made them throw a lot of pitches, we made them throw strikes, and I think it paid off,” Reno assistant coach and athletic director Bill Penaluna said.
Another key was Tyler Heil’s solid performance when he moved from shortstop to the mound in the third inning. Heil allowed two runs on two walks and a hit batsman as Carson built a 7-2 lead, but he followed that up with five scoreless innings before he left with one runner aboard and no outs in the ninth.
Carson took an 8-7 lead in the ninth when Royal Good walked, took second on Kevin Schlange’s sacrifice bunt and scored on a two-out throwing error.
Carson had good reason to feel comfortable with a one-run lead and the bottom third of Reno’s lineup coming up in the bottom of the ninth to face Nick Smallman, who had already pitched three scoreless innings in relief.
“Nick was in a groove,” Cook said. “But then the leadoff hitter walks and it’s deja vu all over again.”
John Rice walked on four pitches, advanced to second on Brian Hill’s sacrifice bunt and scored when No. 9 hitter Alex Gardner doubled down the left field line. John Wallace was walked intentionally and Anthony Stewart drew a full-count walk to load the bases. Next up, Heil hit a sacrifice fly to right to drive home the winning run.
Carson took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Brooks Greenlee hit a line drive over the Dr. Pepper sign in left field for a solo home run. Reno rallied to tie the score in the bottom half of the inning, but Carson answered with five runs in the third to make it 7-2. Schlange doubled to left and scored on Logan Parsley’s single to ignite the rally, while Derek Shoaf drew a bases loaded walk and Alex Tanchek was hit by a pitch to bring home another run to make it 7-2.
Reno came right back as Heil was hit by a pitch and Davis Banks walked to open the bottom of the third. Both scored to bring Reno to within 7-4.
“We were patient. We got ourselves in a hole early, but we kept pecking away and we were able to come back,” Penaluna said.
Reno scored twice in the sixth to tie the score at 7 and the damage might have been more extensive if not for a sterling defensive play with one out and the bases loaded by Brooks Greenlee at third base. Greenlee gloved a sharply hit grounder, stepped on the bag for one out and then threw across the diamond to Murphy Gardner at first base to complete the inning-ending double play.
“Brooks has grown by leaps and bounds here at the end of the season,” Cook said of the sophomore. “He came up big for us. He has a good arm and he knew he had the time to make that play.”
Schlange went 3-for-4 and scored twice, while Greenlee went 2-for-4 to lead Carson’s seven-hit attack. Brian Hill was 2-for-4 with three RBIs for the Huskies, who finished with 10 hits.
“We were just tough luck losers,” Cook said with a shrug. “But I’m proud of these guys. We lost a tough one-run game to Galena yesterday and then it took Reno nine innings to beat us today. I just thought the kids showed a lot of heart and backbone.”
n Contact Dave Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 881-1220.