Keema sparks Blue Jays to victory
RENO — The last time Carson played at Damonte Ranch, the team left with a bitter season-ending 14-13 defeat.
With just three starters on the field from that game — Josiah Pongasi, Brandon Allen and Connor Leahy — the Blue Jays scored three times in the fifth inning to knock off the Rebels, 8-7, in their summer opener Thursday night.
Carson won’t have much time to savor the win, however. The Blue Jays entertain Truckee tonight at 5 at Ron McNutt Field.
“It’s nice to come here and get a win, especially the way our (spring) season ended,” Carson coach Bryan Manoukian said. “I’m very encouraged by the win. They are a very good team. One through six (for the Rebels) can hit the ball. The kids understand how to manufacture runs; moving runners over.
“They understand the importance of every at-bat. They did a good job of hitting with runners in scoring position and taking extra bases when they could.”
That was never more evident than in the fifth inning when Carson scored three times to wipe out a 6-5 deficit.
Pongasi singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Allen. Joe Nelson walked, and both runners moved up a base when Brad Bourdase uncorked a wild pitch with Jace Keema at the plate. Moments later. Keema pounded an off-field double to right to score both runners for a 7-6 lead.
Leahy followed with an infield single. Leahy stole second, the slide so hard that it knocked the ball out of Grant Goff’s glove which allowed Nelson to score Carson’s final run.
“I was just trying to hit the ball in the air and get at least one RBI,” Keema said. “Once I hit it, I was confident I could get a double.”
“That was the hit of the game right there,” Manoukian said. “He got two strikes on him and battled. He did a nice job on that at-bat.”
Keema came on in relief of Allen in the fifth, and worked the final three innings to pick up the win.
After a 1-2-3 fifth, Keema worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth.
Carson wasted a lead-off double by Nelson in the seventh against Billy Damon, as Manoukian elected not to play small ball. Damon retired Keema, Leahy and Krebs to end the inning.
Damonte made it interesting in the last of the seventh.
Damon doubled and scored on a double by Austin Hoggatt, who had given Damonte a 3-1 lead in the first with a three-run homer. Weston Lord-Parker lined to center and Taylor Lord-Parker rolled to short to end the game.
“For the first time out, I thought I did fairly good,” Keema said. “I couldn’t get my slider over like I wanted.”
Keema, Nelson and Cody Azevedo all had two hits apiece. Both of Nelson’s hits went for extra bases, including a run-scoring triple in the third.
“Nelson swung the bat very, very well,” Manoukian said.