A bench-clearing brawl in the third inning did more than supply fireworks Thursday afternoon when the Carson and Douglas high school baseball teams squared off in their Northern 4A season-opening contest.
It was the turning point in the game, as the Carson Senators went on to score 10 unanswered runs to win 14-4 in a game called after five innings on a bone-chilling afternoon at Ron McNutt Field.
The incident occurred with Carson batting in the home half of the third inning. The score was tied 4-4 with one out and a runner at third, when Ben Moore struck out swinging. Douglas catcher Kyle Wentz was unable to hold on to the ball and was forced to throw to first base for the out. Carson's Joe Mercer broke from third and slid hard into Wentz - who was blocking the plate waiting for a return throw that never came. Wentz got up and pushed Mercer from behind, igniting a melee that resulted in the ejection of six starters (four from Carson, two from Douglas).
The run broke the 4-4 tie, and with Douglas starting pitcher Jared Silveira ejected from the game, the Senators scored four more runs in the inning to take charge.
Carson coach Ron McNutt was pleased with the way the Senators responded to the situation.
"It was a freakish thing. You always hate to see those incidents happen, but I was proud of the way the kids stepped up afterward. They knew what we had to get done, and they went out and played hard."
Some young players came off the bench and helped ignite the Senators after the dust cleared. The first was sophomore Carl Winter, who worked Douglas reliever Shane Cauley for a walk. Chandler Allen followed with a bloop double into center field and designated hitter Shea Salazar, also coming off the bench, tripled off the fence in right-center to bring both runs home.
"Oh yeah, I was looking forward to getting my chance. I've been preparing to play on this team for two years," said Salazar, a junior. "It was a fastball high and away, and I jumped on it."
Salazar eventually scored himself on a passed ball and Sean Hornback, who reached base on a walk, later scored on a dropped third-strike ball to give the Senators a 9-4 lead.
While the Senators seemed to respond well after the brawl, the same couldn't be said of the Tigers.
"Our kids lost their focus," first-year Douglas coach Fred Bendure said. "That totally took us out of the game.
"Losing our pitcher hurt," Bendure added, referring to Sonoma State University-bound right-hander Silveira. "It was too bad, because he settled down after the first inning. He was getting the ball down and he was just starting to become effective."
Carson had scored four times in the first inning on Ben Moore's two-run double, followed by Tony Faulkner's two-run homer to right-center.
Douglas answered with four runs off Carson starter Ken Heald in the second. Cauley singled and scored on Trevor Crawford's home run to straightaway center. Jordan followed with another base hit, and after one out, Wentz homered over the center field fence to tie the score.
"The first one (home run) was a fastball over the middle of the plate," Heald said. "The second one was a pitch on the corner, he just went with it and hit it out."
Bobby Lee singled with two outs in the second, but that turned out to be the Tigers' last hit, as Heald retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced.
"I was a little nervous in the second inning, but then I settled down and mentally got back into it," said Heald, who finished with a six-hitter on five strikeouts and one walk. "That's normally how I throw in cold weather. It takes me a while to get loose.
"I also got good team support. It helped to have five runs to work with."
The 10-run rule took effect in the fifth when Carson scored three runs, capped off when Matt Leck hit an RBI double and then scored on Winter's single up the middle.
CARSON J.V. WINS
Nathan White slammed a two-run homer over the left field fence to spark a five-run third inning rally that helped the Carson J.V.s to a 12-2 win against Douglas.
Carson scored five more runs in the fifth to close out the game and make a winner of Jarrad Bone, who pitched three-hit ball and struck out eight.
Chris Barr hit 2-for-2 with a double and triple, while Josh Burau hit 2-for-3 with a double to supply offensive highlights for the Senators.