A year ago, the Carson High Senators racked up an impressive 23-11 record, including a 16-6 league mark, its best showing in both categories in coach Bryan Manoukian’s tenure.
Can Carson better that this year? That remains to be seen, as Carson must replace Kyle Krebs, Cody Azevedo, Terek Been, John Holton, Joe Nelson and Connor Pradere among others.
“This group hasn’t done anything yet,” said Manoukian, whose team went 1-2 in the postseason and begins its 2017 season Thursday (weather permitting) at CHS. “This group needs to put in the work to get it done like it has been done in the past.
“It is hard to come from where we are in barely one season. The focus was making sure we were in the right position instead of being ready for the tournament. Our guys were tired I think, especially on the mound. We needed to get good, short performances, but they turned into longer performances. It put pressure on our offense, and we started pressing at the plate. Guys who usually get hits didn’t.”
Manoukian has some pretty good pieces to build around in pitcher-first-baseman-outfielder Bryce Moyle, third baseman Abel Carter, shortstop Jace Keema, and outfielder Jesse Lopez. All four played well last season.
The strength, at least on paper, appears to be Carson’s pitching staff. Moyle is back for his final high school season, and he’ll be backed by Jared Barnard (4-2, 3.65), and Ben Nelson, Derek Schafer (0-0, 3.94) and Colby Zemp are battling for the third and fourth spots. Cole McDannald (1-0, 6.56), starting catcher Trevor Edis (4-1, 3.43) and Kyle Glanzmann are in line to be the relievers.
“I think Bryce (5-2, 2.64) has lost maybe three games in his high school career,” Manoukian said. “He gives us a chance to win every single time he goes out there. You can’t win with one guy, though. We have 22 guys, so we have to develop a staff which is what we’ve been trying to do.
“Each year we’re getting better and better. Barney (Barnard) has to be Barnard. Colby, Derek and Ben will fight it out for the third and fourth spots. Everybody else will be fighting it out in the bullpen.”
Edis has the task of stepping in for Krebs, who hit more than .400 last season. Edis batted .250, and he’ll be backed up by Teigen Key.
“We’re thin there (catcher),” Manoukian said. “I’d prefer not to have to throw Trevor at all. We have five games in three days this week, so he may have to. Teigen has had some injuries, but he has looked good in practice. We may sit Trevor at times (in preseason) just to get Teigen some time.”
Manoukian pointed out that his defensive alignment, especially in the infield, may depend who’s pitching.
Moyle is slated to start at first when he’s not pitching, and Zemp, Keema, Nelson and Brandon Gagnon could also end up there.
“We’ll have a litany of first baseman,” Manoukian said.
Barnard (.160), Kyle McDermott, Kahle Good and Glanzmann are among the candidates at second base. Barnard struggled at the plate last spring, but Manoukian pointed out he hit much better in the summer.
“Barnard got spot ABs last year,” Manoukian said. “He didn’t get to hit a lot. This summer he made some adjustments. It’s there.”
Keema, who’s coming off a fractured foot, has been moved from second to short. He hit .278 a year ago and has some power with a homer and 17 RBI.
“He hit a couple of doubles in our scrimmage,” Manoukian said. “His foot got tired at the end of the day. It is going to get stronger and stronger.”
Barnard and Good would be the likely candidates to play short in a back-up role.
Carter hit .342 with 15 RBI last season in his first year as a starter, and he had an explosive summer which ended with a verbal offer from Washington State.
“He’s hitting third and playing third,” Manoukian said. “I don’t think it gets any bigger than where you hit in the order.”
The speedy Lopez (.324, 12 RBI, 16 SB), who played left field last year, will replace Azevedo in center. He’s Carson’s best-stealing threat. He hit out of the 9-hole last year, but Manoukian said that won’t be the case this year.
“We need him at the top,” Manoukian said. “He has too much experience. We batted him second in the scrimmage. He would be getting an extra 30-40 at-bats a season.”
Gagnon (.333, 3 RBI), Luke Myers (.500 with 8 at-bats), Joe Tonino, McDermott and Landon Truesdale will battle for playing time at the other two spots.
“They are pretty equal defensively, so it will come down to who is swinging the bat better, running the bases and bunting.”