By CONOR NICHOLL
WICHITA -- In his preparation for the National Baseball Congress World Series, Hays Larks manager Frank Leo had one position that would likely be a revolving door: designated hitter. Leo listed three players -- Joe Huwer, Kyle Peterson and Andrew Heck -- that could fill the position.
Through four World Series contests, each player has produced in the DH slot. Overall, Huwer, Heck and Peterson are 6-for-15 (.400 average) with three RBIs and two runs scored as the designated hitter.
No other position had been more productive than DH for Hays. The four RBIs from the three DHs tied left fielder Rafael Valenzuela and catcher Ollie Goulder for the team lead. Goulder's six hits in 14 at-bats tied the DHs for Larks' high from one position.
On Monday, Heck was the DH and finished 2-for-4 with an RBI in a 2-1 losers' bracket victory against the Nevada (Mo.) Griffons at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The Larks moved to 30-15 overall, 3-1 in the NBC.
Heck, the team's ace with a 5-0 record, could have started the game on the mound. Instead, Leo went with Heck, one of the team's leading hitters, as the DH and started Patrick Cooper on the mound.
"Andrew has a been good hitter for us," Leo said. "We were anticipating a left-hander to start that game. We didn't see him, so we just said, 'Let's go with our original lineup that we thought about going in.' "
In Hays' first game Wednesday, Huwer and Peterson combined to go 2-for-4 as the DH with a walk and two runs scored in a victory against the Plaza Tire (Mo.) Capahas.
In a loss Friday, Heck returned to the lineup and collected a hit, sacrifice and RBI. Overall, Heck carries a .333 average, 56 points higher than his Larks' average last summer and third on the team. Heck, labeled by Leo as the best multi-dimensional player in the manager's 27 years, also ranks among the team leaders in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
"Heck has come up as a pitcher and been the ace of the team pretty much," Cooper, a 2008 and 2009 Lark, said. "He has been doing really well. I kind of saw that at the end of the (2008) summer. He has matured a lot this year and he has kind of taken on one of those leadership roles."
On Saturday, Leo moved Huwer back into the DH slot and put Peterson in right field, replacing the struggling Codi Harshman. Huwer finished 1-for-4 with an RBI. In two years at the NBC, Huwer is 8-for-22 (.364 average) with five RBIs in seven games.
His 20 RBIs this summer rank third on the Larks. Peterson, known for his power, didn't deliver a hit, but did continue a three-run rally in the fourth when he was hit by a pitch.
"You take hunches sometimes," Leo said. "We have all seen Peterson get into a ball or two and drive it deep. With the wind blowing out, we were maybe looking for some instant offense there."
On Monday, Leo traded Heck's pitching for offense. Heck, who does not hit on days he pitches, rejoined the lineup when Cooper started. He drove home the first run of the game in the second inning when he grounded an 0-2 pitch up the middle for a single. He delivered another hit in the eighth.
"Let him swing a little bit today and he got a couple of hits," Leo said.