Carson, Douglas split double header
MINDEN — First-inning rallies set the tone when the Carson and Douglas high school baseball teams collided in a double header on Saturday afternoon.
First, Marc Walling’s two-run homer in the home half of the first ignited Douglas to its 10-0 victory in the first game. Then in game two, Carson’s Senators struck for four runs in the top of the first on their way to an 8-3 victory to salvage a split of the Sierra League twin-bill on a sunny yet frigid day.
Austin Graham pitched a two-hit shutout for Douglas in the opener, which only took 90 minutes to play before play was called in the fifth inning due to the 10-run rule. Todd Hendrix and Ben Moore combined to pitch five-hit ball for Carson in the second game.
“I was really pleased with the way the kids bounced back after we were shut out in that first game,” Carson coach Ron McNutt said. “It would have been easy for them to fold up the tent after that, but they came back and battled. This is the ball club I know we can be.”
Coupled with their 8-6 win at Carson on Thursday, the Douglas Tigers took two of three games in the series between two rivals who may very well oppose each other again during the postseason in May.
“After that first game, we were hoping for a sweep, but it’s still nice to take two of three because Carson has a quality ball club,” Douglas coach Hal Wheeler said.
By winning that last game, the Senators were able to avoid starting their league season at 0-3.
“I’m real happy with the split,” McNutt said. “Obviously we would have rather had a sweep today, but Austin Graham had something to say about that.”
Graham retired 15 of the 18 batters he faced and only allowed one base runner to get as far as second base. The junior left-hander struck out four and walked one.
“Austin pitched a great game,” Wheeler said of Graham, who threw only 57 pitches. “He got his curve ball over the plate and he spotted his fast ball well. He was pitching out there, not just throwing.”
Graham never had to worry about support after the Tigers scored three runs in the first inning. Shane Cauley hit a lead-off single and Walling followed with a shot over the 380-foot sign in left-center field. Graham singled to center, Cal Lewis singled to left and then James Bunting’s bunt was misplayed for an error that allowed Graham to score and make it 3-0.
“We work on our bunting a lot; we have good speed and we want to try and take advantage of that,” Wheeler said. “It’s nice when you can make the short game work for you. When you have the lead, you can do things like that, so that’s a big key for us.”
Lewis drove two more runs home with a triple to center field that made it 6-0 in the second inning. Lewis hit 3-for-3 with a double, triple and three RBIs and Cauley was 2-for-4 with one RBI in the game.
Carson caught some big breaks right off the bat in game two. Jon Teeter reached on an infield hit up the middle to lead off against Douglas starter Tommy Hoyle and then Carl Winter hit a chopper that Cauley gloved in the hole at shortstop — but his throw to first hit base umpire Dave Noble in the back of the head.
“That was a tough one,” Wheeler said with a shrug. “We might have gotten out of there and given up just one run, but no excuses. That’s just part of the game.”
Moore walked to load the bases and Murph Glover’s wind-blown fly ball to right field fell for a single that scored Teeter. Next up, Owen Brolsma stroked a drive into the gap in left-center for a two-run double. Glover scored to make it 4-0 on Aaron Henry’s ground ball to the right side.
Henry was a late addition to the lineup — Ryan Gonzalez, the scheduled starter in left field, was scratched when he experienced soreness in his throwing arm — and the sophomore responded by hitting 2-for-3 with three RBIs. Henry hit a two-run single and then scored on Rodney Black’s double to give the Senators a 7-1 lead in the fifth.
That was enough cushion for Hendrix, a senior left-hander who allowed three runs on five hits before giving way to Moore in relief in the sixth. Hendrix had no complaints about throwing with the temperature in the mid-30s.
“I usually get the cold games,” Hendrix said. “I like this kind of weather. It helps me throw faster. You just have to mix up your speeds and that’s what I do.”
Douglas scored twice in the fifth, although the damage might have been more extensive if not for a diving stop at third base by Black, who made a throw from his knees to second base for a force out. With two runners still aboard, Hendrix worked out of the jam with a strikeout and fly ball to right fielder Neil Holmes.
Andrew Andrews singled with one out in the sixth, but Moore came on in relief and retired the side on back-to-back strikeouts. Moore set down the side in order in the seventh to earn the save.
“This was a big win. Douglas has a good club, but we knew we had to get out of here with at least a split,” Hendrix said.
“We talked about that,” McNutt said. “But this is an 18-game (league) season. We still have a lot of ball yet to play. We’re going to be all right.”
The Senators collected 13 hits in the second game — as opposed to the seven total they had in the first two games of the series. Holmes went 3-for-4 to lead the attack. Graham hit 2-for-4 for Douglas.