WASHINGTON -- Carmichaels baseball coach Dickie Krause didn't feel his team was on top of its game Saturday but the result was the same as its been all season for the first-place Mikes in Section 1-AA.
Carmichaels rebounded after squandering an early 4-0 lead and went on to defeat host Washington, 7-4, at Wild Things Park to move closer to clinching the section crown.
Drake Long pitched 5 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win and Gavin Pratt and Nick Ricco both went 2 for 3 with a double and two RBIs as the Mikes improved to 7-0 in the section and 11-1 overall.
"A win is a win," Krause said. "We'll take it. But we weren't real crisp. I didn't think our focus was as good as it normally is.
"We left a lot of room for improvement."
Even so, the Mikes (7-0, 11-1) need just one more win in their final three section games or one loss by red-hot California, which has won nine straight, in its last two games to clinch at least a share of first place.
"I'm not thinking about that right now," Krause said. "We just take it day by day, game by game."
Carmichaels put together a threat in the first inning against Prexies starting pitcher Jarrod West when it loaded the bases with one out as Long was hit by a pitch, Pratt singled to right and Stush Ferek drew a walk. Washington third baseman Michael Shallcross then snagged Liam Lohr's sharp grounder at the bag and turned an inning-ending 5-4 double play.
Undaunted, the Mikes came right back in the top of the second with a six-hit inning that produced four runs.
Zack Hillsman started the rally with a one-out walk and stole second. Dylan Rohrer singled to right and stole second and Chris Barrish beat out an infield single with Hillsman scoring. One out later, Pratt stroked a two-run double to right to make it 3-0.
"Gavin had been a catalyst for us," Krause said. "He's going to Seton Hill so he's a college-level player. You have to count on those kids a lot and he was good today."
Ricco brought in Pratt with a single to left to cap the rally. Ferek and Lohr followed with singles but left fielder Zakery Burt threw out Ricco at home on the latter with catcher Nicholas Blanchette making the tag to end the inning.
The Prexies (1-5, 3-5) fought back to tie it in the bottom of the inning, chasing Carmichaels starting pitcher Trenton Carter in the process.
Iain Callan was hit by a pitch, Steven Patterson singled and Mario Griffin was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Blanchette struck out but Callan scored when the pitch eluded catcher Ferek. Patterson also scored on a wild pitch as Taiviare Vereen walked, West also walked and Burt hit an RBI single to left to make it 4-3.
Krause then called on Long to relieve Carter. Shallcross tied it with a sacrifice fly to center and Asa Charnik laced a fly ball into right field that looked like it would give the Prexies the lead but right fielder Hillsman made a diving catch to end the inning.
It was one of two outstanding plays in the outfield by the Mikes as Carter made a sliding grab in left field to rob Lutes of a hit in the seventh inning.
"Defensively, the outfield was tremendous today," Krause said.
Carmichaels scored what proved to be the winning run in the fourth. Long hit a one-out single to left, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and came home on Ricco's sacrifice fly.
The Mikes made it 6-4 in the fifth when Lohr walked, stole second and scored on Jacob Fordyce's triple to left.
Long allowed one hit and two walks, hit two batters and struck out three but it was a couple defensive plays he made in the sixth inning that helped Carmichaels maintain its lead.
Callan singled and Patterson walked to lead off the inning. Griffin popped up a bunt attempt that Long grabbed for the first out. Blanchette also tried to bunt but Long quickly bounced on the ball and threw a strike to third baseman Rohrer for a force out.
"We were trying to move the runners over into scoring position and just couldn't execute it," Prexies coach Anthony Belcastro said.
"Those were big plays," Krause said. "It was only a two-run game and if they get the bunt down then anything can happen.
"The key on that second play was holding the runner on second. We work on that. That's a big deal for us. That extra step or two can make a big difference."
Ricco then fielded Vereen's sharp grounder to first to end the inning.
Carmichaels played error-free ball and made several other stellar plays in the infield. First baseman Ricco dug out a low throw to record an out in the third. Ferek gunned down Shallcross attempting to steal in the fifth.
Charnik came on in relief for the Prexies in the sixth after West allowed six runs on 10 hits with four walks and one strikeout.
Charnik stranded Ricco, who hit a two-out double, in the sixth but the Mikes got an unearned run in the seventh. Lohr singled, stole second, went to third when the throw sailed high and scored when the ball was misplayed in the outfield.
Other than the double-error, the Prexies played solid defense, making only one other fielding miscue.
"Washington played well," Krause said. "They played hard and they made some nice plays in the field."
Belcastro was pleased to see his team battle back after an early deficit.
"They never quit," he said. "I knew they wouldn't.
"We've been a little bit behind the eight ball with COVID shutting us down. Out of eight weeks, we've only been playing for four. We're just trying to keep their confidence up and I think they have it. We're trying to put some things together and get the ball rolling."
Long pitched into the seventh and left with two outs and a runner on as Krause called on Rohrer to get the final out, which he did on a foul out to earn the save.
Belcastro lauded the Mikes.
"They're a great team," he said. "Dickie Krause is a great coach. He's been around for a long time. His kids are always fundamentally sound. Every time you play them you know you're facing a good opponent."
Burt had two of Washington's four hits and a stolen base. Charnik gave up the one unearned run on two hits and two walks with one strikeout in two innings.
Rohrer was 2 for 3 with a walk, a run scored and three stolen bases for the Mikes who also got two hits, two runs and a pair of stolen bases from Lohr.
Krause thought his team should've pushed across a few more runs.
"We left a lot of runs out there," Krause said, noting nine runners left on base, "and we had two kids out at the plate."
Krause was happy his team got the chance to play at a facility such as Wild Things Park.
"These kids have never been here," said Krause, noting the field's artificial surface and cavernous dimensions. "It changes everything ... how fast the ball gets to the outfielder, how deep the backstop is. This is just so different from our field. They hit one today and we hit two or three that would've been out at Carmichaels.
"But it was fun to play here and it was a beautiful day for baseball."