Reno High School still won the game, but this time there was some drama at the end.
The Reno Huskies scored six runs in the first four innings and then turned back a late Carson comeback to secure a 6-4 victory to wrap up the Northern 4A Region tournament championship on an overcast Saturday morning at Ron McNutt Field.
Carson (21-12) battled back from deficits of 4-0 and 6-1 and had the potential tying runs batting in both the sixth and seventh innings, but came up short in the end as Reno (28-3) captured its second straight zone championship. Reno and Carson both advance to the NIAA/U.S. Bank 4A State Tournament, which starts on Thursday in Henderson.
The Huskies had won three previous tournament games by a combined 29-3 margin, including an 11-1 five-inning verdict against Carson in the winners' bracket final on Thursday, but this time the game came right down to the wire.
"I told the team, it's tough to win back-to-back, everybody loves to play you, but our kids rose to the challenge today," Reno coach Pete Savage said. "Carson's a tough team. Obviously we respect them; they have some real tough kids."
Marc Liveratti lined a two-run homer to straightaway center field as Carson cut its deficit to 6-3. The Senators had two runners aboard on walks in the sixth before Reno starter Darrick Cummings retired the side in the sixth. In the seventh, Liveratti singled and scored when Brian Kleidosty laced a double down the left field line, but Adam Colton came on in relief and closed the door when Joe Mercer hit a ground ball to second for the final out.
"We had some chances. Take away our four errors, hey, we're in the ballgame," Carson coach Ron McNutt said. "We didn't make a couple of plays we needed to, but then we made some great ones to keep them out of some big innings."
The story of the game for Carson was a complete game pitching performance by senior right-hander Randy Loff (5-2). The Senators' No. 3 starter and a first-year varsity player, Loff allowed four earned runs on seven hits in his first postseason appearance.
"He battled and kept us in the game," Carson pitching coach Bob Ayrault said of Loff. "As long as they don't get out to a big lead, we have a chance.
"He kept the ball down, for the most part, he did a great job. You couldn't ask him to do any more, especially when you consider it's been three weeks since he's pitched in a competitive game. He's done the same all year; he's done the job."
Cummings (8-1), who hadn't pitched in two weeks, struck out the side in the top of the first and then belted a two-run double in the bottom half of the inning as Reno jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
"We scored runs early, and when you give our pitching staff runs, we hold them," Savage said. "Our pitching staff, I believe in them big-time. I think we have the best pitching staff in the league, there's no question about that.
"We wanted to give Darrick some work before we went down to Vegas, and he came out and threw a great game. And Adam wanted the ball today, I felt confident closing with him."
Cummings, who struck out 10, allowed only three baserunners through four innings. Nick Gitthens reached on an infield hit to lead off the third, Kleidosty walked and sophomore Carl Winter singled past second base to give the Senators their first run.
Reno had seven hits from seven different players. Marc Kaiser hit a leadoff home run in the third to give Reno a 4-1 lead.
Carson begins play in the four-team state Tournament Thursday with a 7 p.m. game against Sunrise Region champion Silverado (21-6) at Burkholder Field in Henderson. Reno opens against Sunset Region representative Durango (26-8) at 7 p.m. as well
"I told the kids, the sun's going to come up tomorrow, we get a new season starting Thursday down there and anything can happen," McNutt said. "Reno's 0-0, we're 0-0. Hey, it's anybody's ballgame now."