BUTLER, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Branson Carson hasn’t thrown a lot of innings for the Moniteau baseball team over the past two weeks, but the senior right-hander was more than ready to be the bulldog Wednesday to beat the Bulldogs.
Carson struck out 12 in five-plus shutout innings, Dawson Wallace relieved him and kept the door shut and Jakub Obman provided the biggest hit of the game with a three-run triple as the Warriors clinched the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference 2A title with a 7-1 win over Redbank Valley at Pullman Park.
Carson, the Warriors’ unquestioned ace, has seen his workload cut to just key situations down the stretch in a combination of rainouts and rest. But he got the ball against Redbank Valley and showed off an up-tick in velocity and movement that confounded Bulldog hitters.
“I was really pumped up all day leading up to it,” Carson said. “I felt good. I felt like I was gonna come out and compete well today and that’s what I did and what we did as a team. I think all of us stepped up.”
Carson knew he was going to have to be sharp.
The Bulldogs sent their ace, Bryson Bain, to the hill, and the two hard-throwing right-handers matched zeros for three innings until Moniteau broke through in the bottom of the fourth on a RBI single by Carson for a 1-0 lead.
“The guys in the dugout really fired me up,” Carson said. “They kept me motivated with high fives and fist bumps when I came in after an inning. They got me motivated to just keep pitching.”
Moniteau (12-5, 8-1 in the KSAC) broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth.
Cooper Boozel reached on a one-out single and Brock Matthews followed with a walk. With two outs, Wallace was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Obman stepped in and tripled over the head of Redbank Valley center fielder Owen Clouse to the deepest part of Pullman Park for a triple and a 4-0 lead.
“It felt invigorating,” Obman said. “It lit up the whole team and carried us to the win.
“As long as Branson kept in control,” Obman added, patting his teammate on the shoulder, “we were in good shape.”
Obman later scored on a RBI double by Carson for a 5-0 advantage.
Bain went five innings, striking out five and giving up six runs — five earned — while surrendering seven hits.
“They just had the timely hit there late in (Bain’s) outing that was able to put them over the hump,” said Redbank Valley coach Craig Hibell.
Carson didn’t want to come out of the game in the top of the sixth inning, but he had reached his 100-pitch limit.
Redbank (10-5, 6-2) did a good job getting into deep counts against Carson. Tate Minich had a 10-pitch at-bat in the first inning, fouling off five good pitches before tapping a ball to Carson at the mound.
Carson gave up four hits, fanned 12 and walked three in 5 1/3 innings.
Wallace closed out the final 1 2/3 innings, giving up one run on two hits and striking out two.
Wallace has excelled in the times he’s been called upon out of the bullpen this season.
“It’s really great to rely on someone to come in and clean up,” Carson said. “He did a really good job.”
Moniteau added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on a fielder’s choice groundout by Book and a run-scoring single by Wallace.
Redbank’s only run came in the top of the seventh on sacrifice fly by Bain, which scored Tyler Hetrick.
Hetrick doubled and tripled and Ty Carrier also had a pair of hit for the Bulldogs.
In addition to his stellar start on the mound, Carson was 3-for-3 at the plate for Moniteau. Carson Ritts also had a triple for the Warriors, who celebrated on the field after clinching the KSAC crown.
“I was talking about this all day at school,” Obman said. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I was really focused on this game. It means a lot to us. Most definitely, yes.”
For Redbank Valley, the loss stings, but the Bulldogs have bigger goals.
Like winning the District 9 championship.
“We finished 10-5 in the regular season and we played some of the better teams — some of the weaker teams we got canceled against,” Hibell said. “So to finish with the record we did is a bright spot for us. Getting a win today would have been big for us, but you know, there’s a tournament coming up that we’re hoping to be there at the end of.”