Carson led for most Friday's tournament tilt at the Athletics Unlimited spring break tournament. Still, Spanish Springs chipped away and came back to grab an advantage that eventually was wiped away after the Senators' late offensive explosion. The final result was a 13-7 Carson win in the pool play finale for both teams.
Spanish Springs (16-4) wound up with a split of their two tournament games Friday. The Cougars had already dumped Head Royce of Oakland, 16-1.
Against Carson, Spanish Springs found itself facing a 6-2 deficit when it took its turn in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Cougars, who have become adept at rallying late in games, were unfazed. They pushed across three runs in the bottom of the fourth and two in the fifth to grab a 7-6 edge.
The score remained that way into the seventh when SSHS coach Ben Hofmann turned the game over to his senior ace closer, Jake Bray. It turned out not to be Bray's day. The hard-throwing right-hander was tagged for the seven runs as Carson sent 10 hitters to the plate and racked up seven hits in the seventh inning alone.
Carson (14-6) also grabbed the early momentum, scoring three runs in the first inning thanks to a trio of wild pitches by SSHS starting pitcher Dallas Mellum. The visiting Senators tacked on two more runs in the third and one more in the fourth en route to forging ahead 6-2.
That's when Spanish Springs began to fight back. Tanner Oates singled and Kendall Murphy homered, cutting the CHS lead in half. Malcom Anderson followed and circled the sacks after a double, a balk and a wild pitch.
In the fifth, Spanish Springs took its lead. Bray and Matt Mannens singled. A Murphy single brought Bray home and an RBI groundout by Anderson allowed Mannens to cross the plate.
That left Spanish Springs on top 7-6, but set the stage for its late collapse.
"I felt OK about the day," Hofmann said. "We actually played pretty well. The score in the second game is not really indicative of that. We didn't commit an error. I wish we could have put more together offensively in the second game, but we hit pretty well.
"If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't change a thing. I'd still hand the ball to Jake. Carson put good swings on the ball. Jake had good stuff. They had three swinging bunts in that rally. It was the proverbial 'bloop and a blast.' And they had a few of those. I told our guys it was just one of those days."
Spanish Springs will play Drake High of San Anselmo, Calif. today at 10 a.m. in the tournament's third-place game. Carson, which won its pool, will not play today in the tourney championship. Instead, the Senators will attend a funeral after the tragic death of two CHS students last week.
Spanish Springs will play in Carson's place in the title tilt at 12:30 p.m. at SSHS.
Spanish Springs had no problem dismantling Head Royce in its first game Friday. The Cougars got single runs in the first and third frames, but the final outcome was never in doubt after the SSHS nine racked up 14 runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Clinging to the 2-0 edge as it came up for its turn in the fourth, Spanish Springs proceeded to send 19 hitters to the plate in its half of the inning.
The Cougars rapped out 12 hits, drew a walk and took advantage of four Head Royce errors in the outburst.
Chase Kittilsen got the inning started on a positive note for Spanish Springs by bashing a solo homer. Troy Weller had a double and single in the fourth, while Murphy and Cade Rogers each had two singles in the rally.
Kittilsen picked up the pitching victory as well. He worked the first four innings of the Cougars' five-inning, mercy-rule romp. The junior right-hander struck out five and walked one in four innings of two-hit work.
Spanish Springs reliever Taylor McBroom got three outs to close the game in the fifth. Head Royce got its lone run of the tournament tilt in the fifth, a solo home run by Steven Farimaro.
The Cougars got on the scoreboard first with their first-inning run. Oates doubled and scored after a Murphy single and a passed ball.
Shane Lawson gave the Cougars their 2-0 lead when he scored in the third. Lawson singled, stole second, moved up to third on an error and came plateward on a sacrifice fly by Bray.