Through three innings on Thursday, the Carson High School baseball team found itself in an unusual situation at Dougla. Not only did the Senators trail on the scoreboard, 1-0, they had a goose egg in the hit column against the offerings of Douglas junior right-hander Kyle Wentz.
Then Joe Mercer's bat came to life, and so did the rest of the lineup, as the Senators scored 11 runs on 10 hits in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings on their way to an 11-4 Northern 4A victory on a cold and cloudy afternoon.
The win raised Carson's third-place conference record to 14-5. Douglas dropped to 9-10.
"We knew this was going to be a tough ballgame coming in because they had been playing well," said Carson coach Ron McNutt. "I thought our kids stepped up when they had to. We got some key hits with people on base, and there in the sixth, we got a couple of bunts down that seemed to cause them some problems and seemed to give us a spark."
Mercer hit 3-for-4, including a two-run homer in the fifth inning and an RBI double in Carson's game-breaking seven-run sixth. The senior catcher also delivered the first hit for the Senators, a line drive single up the middle that led to their first run.
Wentz limited the potent Senators to three baserunners through three innings - two on walks and one on an error.
"Wentz was pitching a helluva game," Mercer said. "He was mixing up his pitches and keeping us off balance. Then we started to wait for our pitch more and we finally got on track. And once we're on track ... our lineup is pretty stacked one through nine."
Back-to-back singles by Tony Faulkner and Ben Moore with two outs in the fourth gave Carson a 2-1 lead. In the fourth, Carl Winter singled and Mercer followed with a long drive over the left-center field fence to make it 4-1.
"I took a step back on one of his curve balls and went the other way," Mercer said of his home run.
In the sixth, Faulkner was hit by a pitch to lead off, Ben Moore was safe on a bunt single and Marc Liveratti was safe when his sacrifice bunt was misplayed for an error. Nick Gitthens lined a run-scoring single to center, Carl Winter was safe on another bunt single and Mercer's double to left-center gave the Senators a 10-2 cushion.
"We played pretty good defense except for the sixth. We just didn't execute on their bunt plays," Douglas coach Fred Bendure said.
"That and we didn't hit the ball in a timely manner like we have been," added Bendure, whose Tigers had won eight of their last 11 games coming into Thursday.
The Tigers stranded nine runners, had another thrown out at home on the tail end of a double steal and had yet another runner doubled off second on a line drive to Carson left fielder Evan McQuirk.
"You have to give Carson credit. They're a good team defensively - they got the job done," Bendure said of the Senators.
One of Carson's defensive highlights came with one out and two runners aboard in the bottom of the sixth when second baseman Brian Kleidosty, with his back to the infield, made an over-the-shoulder catch of a Wentz pop fly in short right-center.
"That was one heck of a catch by Brian," McNutt said. "If he doesn't make that catch, they could have put together a big inning."
Randy Loff (4-1) wound up pitching a complete game for the Senators. The senior right-hander, a first-year varsity player, scattered seven hits, only walked one and struck out two.
Wentz allowed 10 hits and eight earned runs to go with six strikeouts and three walks in his six inning stint.
Trevor Crawford led Douglas offensively, as he hit 3-for-3 with a double and triple. Austin Graham also went 2-for-4, including a double that helped set up the Tigers' first run in the second inning.
Carson, which has now won nine of its last 12 games, hosts conference-leading Reno in a 10 a.m. doubleheader on Saturday. Douglas also faces Sparks Saturday in a critical 10 a.m. twin-bill between teams battling for a top-eight finish in conference and a berth in the Northern 4A zone tournament next month.