Lyons share of playoff: His hit clinch postseason berth for Douglas Tigers
MINDEN — It’s been a while since the Douglas High baseball team has been in the playoffs. But with one swing of the bat, Eli Lyons ended years of frustration for the Tigers.
Lyons’ RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning sent Douglas to a 5-4 win over Carson on Wednesday and also clinched a spot in the Northern 4A playoffs. Douglas also knocked Carson out of the playoff race with the win.
“We’ve had one goal all year,” Douglas coach Don Amaral said. “So proud. Everybody picks up everybody else.”
All 17 Douglas players saw the field on Wednesday.
“It was good,” Amaral said. “A team victory.”
Garritt Benavidez, who had retired the side in order in the eighth on seven pitches, was the tough luck loser for Carson. But in the ninth, Luke Ackerman led off with a single and then Camden Brown reached on a bunt single to give Douglas runners at second and third with non outs.
But Benavidez went on to induce a groundball to third and Delsin Roberts touched third and threw to second for a double play. Lyons, though, followed with his game-winning single to score Brown from second.
Winning pitcher Chris Thacker didn’t allow a run over 3 1/3 innings. Thacker allowed just one hit, a two-out double by Carson’s Casey Martensen in the seventh.
“Tremendous job working in relief,” Amaral said.
And because of his team’s pitching Amaral thinks his club can make noise in the playoffs. “I wouldn’t want to play us,” Amaral said. “I’m five pitchers deep.”
Of the 10 outs Thacker recorded, seven came by strikeout, one came when he caught a popup on a bunt attempt and the other came on the double play.
But what would the Carson-Douglas rivalry be without controversy as the double play was a controversial one and Carson coach Bryan Manoukian in no uncertain terms let the umpires know his feelings about the call after the game.
In the ninth, Kobe Morgan walked and Kahle Good fought back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk to give CHS runners at first and second with one out.
It appeared Douglas had just gotten Good out at second on a fielder’s choice, which would have given the Senators runners at first and third with two outs. But the umpire ruled Good interfered on his slide, so by rule it was an inning-ending double play.
“I don’t care,” Manoukian said, “They can suspend me all they want. That was ridiculous.”
Manoukian then calmed down somewhat but still made it clear what he thought of the call.
“If you’re going to make a call like that in that situation it has to be blatantly obvious. I don’t think it was interference. Kahle may have gone over the bag by a half an inch. But it’s part of the game. It is what it is.”
And Manoukian also made it clear Douglas deserved credit for the win.
“They played hard. They earned it. They earned to go,” said Manoukian about the playoffs.
Small ball was also the key to the Tigers’ win as they scored two runs on bunt singles and another run on a rundown. “Manufacturing some things,” Amaral said.
Douglas took a 2-0 lead in the third. The Tigers scored on Brown’s bunt single to make it 1-0. Brown then got in a rundown and while he was out at second, Ackerman came home from third to score on the play to make it 2-0.
Douglas starting pitcher Eli Hinojosa was dominant on the mound through the first three innings, not allowing a hit. But Carson began to get to Hinojosa in the fourth when Kahle Good roped a shot to the outfield and ended up with a bad hop double when the ball took a bad hop over the outfielder’s head. Martensen followed with an infield single and Benavidez followed with an RBI sacrifice fly to bring Carson to within 2-1.
Carson starting pitcher Justin Nussbaumer allowed one earned run over three innings. The game turned Carson’s way in the bottom of the fourth when Douglas had runners at first and second with no outs.
Jade Stotts came on in relief and after Thacker’s sacrifice bunt gave Douglas runners at second and third with one out, Stotts struck out the next two batters to get out of the jam.
Stotts struck out four over three innings, allowing one run, Hinojosa’s home run that brought Douglas to within 4-3 in the sixth. Hinojosa struck out seven over 5 2/3 innings.
Carson took a 3-2 lead in the fifth on Bryce Baker’s RBI double and Nussbaumer’s RBI single. CHS went on to take a 4-2 lead in the sixth when Baker came through with an RBI sacrifice fly on an 0-2 pitch.
Douglas tied the game 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh without hitting the ball out of the infield. Ackerman reached on an infield single and after a balk, Ayden Murphy reached on an infield single to give Douglas runners at first and third. Lyons then reached on a bunt single, scoring Ackerman to tie the score 4-4.
Even though Carson is out of the playoff race, Manoukian said his team will be ready when it plays Douglas at 7 p.m. Thursday at Ron McNutt Field. “We’re going to honor the rivalry,” Manoukian said, “Even though we can’t make the playoffs we’re going to give it everything we got.”
Ackerman, Brown and Hinojosa all had three hits, Lyons had two hits and Gage Hoyle and Thacker each added a hit for Douglas. Martensen had three hits and Stotts added a hit for CHS.