Chandler Allen supplied the power and some leather. Ken Heald delivered the pitching. And now the Carson High School baseball team is on its way to the state tournament.
Allen tagged two home runs to drive in all four of Carson's runs, plus he played solid defense at third base to support the four-hit pitching of Heald, as the Senators advanced to the Northern 4A zone tournament finals with a 4-1 victory against Reed on Friday afternoon at Ron McNutt Field.
Carson (21-11) returns to play for the championship today at 10 a.m. against unbeaten Reno. The Senators need to win twice to bring home a championship, but regardless of the outcome, they are assured of a berth in the NIAA/U.S. Bank 4A State Tournament next week in Henderson.
"We knew we needed to do it today; this was do or die," Allen said. "We wanted to give 110 percent and leave it all on the field."
Two of the balls Allen hit off Reed starter Joe Melarkey didn't stay on the field, including a three-run homer over the right field fence in the first inning that staked Carson to a 3-0 lead. His solo shot in the sixth gave the Senators their final 4-1 cushion.
"He (Melarkey) threw a fastball, and I just wanted to make contact. I wanted to hit it hard somewhere," said Allen, who has hit seven home runs this season. "That's the first time I've hit the ball (for a home run) the other way, but that's something we've been working on the last couple of weeks."
Reed coach John Phenix pointed out that there was nothing cheap about the first home run, which came with two outs after Brian Kleidosty singled and Matt Leck walked.
"That wasn't a mistake pitch. Joe put it there where he wanted, low and away, the kid (Allen) just went out and got it," Phenix said. "Two outs and he hits a three-run home run, that's just good situation hitting on Carson's part."
Allen smoked the first pitch he saw over the Carson Building Supply sign in left field to lead off Carson's sixth - giving the junior his third multiple home run game of the season.
In Carson's case, it was a matter of the Senators making the best of the five hits they managed overall against Melarkey, Reed's all-conference pitcher.
"Joe threw an excellent game, we just fell a couple of runs short," said Phenix, whose Raiders entered the tournament as the No. 8 seed but finished third. "We wanted to get on Heald early, we wanted to rattle him, but he threw a great baseball game."
Heald (7-3), who pitched the distance to beat Wooster and earned a save against Sparks last weekend, allowed five hits and no walks (he hit one batter). Reed scored its only run in the fifth when Lamar Lee came all the way around from first on Bub Madrid's two-out double.
"I'm real pleased for Ken," Carson coach Ron McNutt said. "I thought the last time he threw was one of his better games. This one today was head and shoulders above any other game he has thrown this year. He was in complete control; he dominated."
The senior right-hander struck out two and induced nine ground ball outs, including an inning-ending double play to escape from a bases-loaded jam in the second. Allen gloved a sharp grounder at third and got the force at home with his throw to catcher Joe Mercer, who relayed a strike to Matt Leck at first base to complete the double play.
That wasn't the only big defensive play behind Heald. With a runner on first and no outs in the sixth, left fielder Evan McQuirk charged in to make a tumbling catch of Travis Covey's sinking liner. And Allen made a diving stop going to his left of a sharp grounder for the second out in the seventh.
"Reed's been playing good baseball, so we knew we needed to play well," Allen said. "We got our bats going and we played good defense today."
As a result, the Senators have the opportunity to send senior Randy Loff to the mound to face Reno (27-3) this morning - and a chance to play at state next week.
"I wasn't ready to hang up my uniform just yet," Heald said. "I'm looking forward to going to state and playing some more baseball with these guys."