By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

In their 15 previous nine-inning games, the starting pitchers for the Hays Larks had combined for just five quality starts (six innings with three runs or fewer).

That trend didn't change on Tuesday night.

Right-hander Cory Jordan, who pitched well in his first start of the season, then struggled in his second start, couldn't get out of the second inning in Hays' 10-2 loss to LIberal in Jayhawk League action at Larks Park.

With the loss, Hays (13-7 overall, 9-6 Jayhawk) dropped into a tie for second place with Liberal (17-6, 9-6), which has won eight straight. First-place Haysville is 15-3 in league action.

Jordan (1-1) allowed four runs on seven hits and didn't retire a batter in the second before being lifted for left-hander Vincent Littleman.

"It's something we've been struggling with all summer long," Hays manager Frank Leo said of his starting pitching. "Somebody's going to have to step up. ..."

Left-hander Levi Schlick (2-1), who followed with a quality start after Jordan's last bad outing, is the probable starter for today's 7 p.m. game with Liberal at Larks Park.

"He followed Cory last week, gave us a tremendous effort," Leo said of Schlick.

"Hopefully, he can do that (today). Same old story. Until our starting pitchers settle in and give us a chance -- we can't be down four, five runs."

Littleman turned in a solid relief effort, allowing two runs in 51âÑ3 innings, with one walk and six strikeouts.

"He's earned a chance to get a start," Leo said. "It might happen this weekend."

The difference between Jordan and Littleman was throwing strikes, Leo said.

"He threw strikes," Leo said of Littleman. "I thought his fastball had good movement and his curveball was good. ... (Jordan) wasn't getting ahead of hitters. He's got to have his breaking pitch and be able to throw it for strikes. He's shown us that's a very good pitch, but lately he hasn't been able to do that."

Liberal starter Paul Gonzalez (1-0) worked six-plus innings, allowing two runs on five hits, with one walk and seven strikeouts.

"He threw strikes, got ahead of hitters," Leo said of Gonzalez, "That's how you're a successful pitcher -- throw strikes, get ahead of hitters. That's something we haven't been doing lately."

Liberal led 5-0 after three innings before the Larks ruined Gonzalez's shutout bid on Ollie Goulder's homer with one out in the fifth. The Bee Jays had a 6-1 lead when Hays tried to rally in the seventh. Cody Gougler hit an RBI single to get Hays within four runs, and the Larks loaded the bases with one out for shortstop Elvin Rodriguez. But Liberal reliever Travis Parker induced Rodriguez to hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.

"I thought Elvin put a good swing on it," Leo said. " ... That's the way the game of baseball goes. ... That was a backbreaker right there."

Liberal added four runs in the ninth to send Larks' fans scurrying for the exits. The Larks have now lost three of their last five games and Hays is now 7-5 at home after going 22-5 at Larks Park last season.

"Right now, we need a good game, a good, crisp game (tonight), bottom line," Leo said.