Carson Blue Jays win tourney opener
Carson’s Justin Stevens faced a tough task when he took the mound against the Grants Pass Nuggets in the opening round of the Reno Knights 4th of July Tournament.
The Nuggets’ lineup was filled with graduated seniors, and even had a player or two that played in junior college this past spring.
Stevens was up to the task. The lanky right-hander scattered seven hits and fanned four in the Blue Jays’ 4-0 triumph at Ron McNutt Field on Friday night.
“They were definitely the toughest (team) I’d faced,” Stevens said. “I knew they were big (physically). I just came out and tried to treat it like they were just another group of kids playing ball. It was probably my best outing.”
Stevens used just 91 pitches. Grants Pass got just one runner to third base the entire game, that coming in the second inning. Stevens escaped damage when he struck out Kolton Fisher to end that threat.
“That was essentially a college team,” said Blue Jays head coach Bryan Manoukian. “They had some guys that just graduated, and they had guys coming back from college.
“Justin did a good job locating. He threw his fastball for strikes to both sides of the plate. I don’t think he walked a batter and he hit one. I think half of his outs were on change-ups.”
Stevens admitted that with his curveball not finding the mark he relied on his change-up to get outs and strikes.
Carson scored all the runs it would need in the third off starter/loser Blake Hollingsworth.
Garritt Benavidez singled to start the inning. Bryce Baker dropped down a bunt, and it was so good that he was going to beat it out. The ball was thrown wildly to first, allowing Benavidez to get to third and Baker to second. Justin Nussbaumer walked to load the bases.
Kahle Good, who has been clutch all summer, singled home Benavidez and Baker to snap the scoreless tie. Good was thrown out trying to take second on the throw home. Hollingsworth retired Kenny Aydelott and Casey Martensen to end the inning.
Grants Pass threatened in the fourth after a single by Trey Frodge and a hit batsman. Nate Morgan popped up trying to advance the runners, and then Bennett Rodgers hit into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
The Blue Jays scored an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth without the benefit of a hit, as Morgan made an errant throw to first trying to complete a double play that enabled the Carson runner to score from second base.
Stevens had a 1-2-3 sixth. Grants Pass put runners at first and second with one out but Stevens retired the next two hitters to end the game.
Carson returns to action Saturday at 1 p.m. against Damonte Ranch. The Blue Jays will play twice on Sunday.