Payson junior Dailey Carnes had started a total of one game before entering his team’s second-round Division III state baseball matchup against No.8 Lakeside Blue Ridge.
Carnes was the closer. His longest outing of the season lasted four innings, and his only start lasted 3 2/3.
But after thoroughly dominating Blue Ridge in a 7-0 win Friday at Surprise Sports Complex to earn a quarterfinals berth, Carnes may never see the bullpen again. The 5-8 righty gave up just three hits, walked none and struck out 12, finishing the game by retiring 15 consecutive batters.
At one point, Carnes struck out eight Blue Ridge batters in a row.
No. 9 Payson (19-9) will play the winner of No. 1 Show Low and No. 16 San Tan Valley Combs in the quarterfinals at 1 p.m. Saturday at Surprise Sports Complex.
“I was just going for it, one pitch at a time,” Carnes said. “I had my team to back me up. I trusted my pitches. I know that if they put the ball in play, they’re going to do it for me.”
Carnes needed only 90 pitches to log his longest outing of the season, and really hit his groove in the top of the third, when he began both his streak of strikeouts and consecutive batters retired.
That streak might have been longer if not for a Payson error to start the third.
“We did a lot of things that helped him,” Blue Ridge coach Joe Merklin said. “We swung at some stuff that we shouldn’t have. He got ahead 0-2 on hitters, and when you swing on 0-2, you’re hitting his pitch if you’re going to hit.”
While Carnes was machine-like on the mound, the Payson offense was just as efficient. Payson led 2-0 after two innings, and tacked on a run in each of the following five frames.
Blue Ridge (18-10) entered the game with a .378 team batting average, but couldn’t solve Carnes. That included senior Kevin Spencer, who was hitting .608 coming into the game. After going 0 for 3, his average dropped to .585.
Spencer, who has interest from Gateway Community College, Arizona Western and Yavapai College, hit .620 as a junior and .500 as a sophomore. For his career, he batted .567.
“He felt so bad today, he struggled,” Merklin said. “But it’s part of the game. It’s a hard game. It’s a really hard game. You fail more in this game than you succeed in most cases, and he’s succeeded a lot.”