By CONOR NICHOLL
The Hays Larks had dominant pitching in both games of their home doubleheader against the Colorado Sox on Thursday night at Larks Park. However, in Game 2, the Larks had trouble offensively, defensively and throwing strikes.
The differences yielded a non-league split, as Hays won the opener, 12-2, and fell 5-4 in the second contest.
In Game 1, Hays delivered eight hits, including a 4-for-5 performance from Brian Martin. Three pitchers, led by winning pitcher Mark Phillips, permitted six hits and struck out six against three walks. The Larks didn't commit an error.
Game 2 yielded 15 strikeouts by a trio of Larks pitchers. But Hays had five errors and permitted five walks and eight hits, including several soft hits that led to runs.
"We didn't throw enough strikes to get ahead of hitters, particularly in Game 2," Hays manager Frank Leo said. "We strike out 15 of the 21 outs, so that tells you they are not great hitters, but if you walk enough people and they were opportunistic, you have to give them credit. ... They weren't hard-hit balls. Each one of them was a bloop. They stayed within themselves, so you have to tip your hat to them."
In Game 1, Phillips, the team's closer, returned after missing a week because of family functions in Colorado Springs. Instead of using him in late-inning situations, Leo wanted to give Phillips some innings and started the Gonzaga University right-hander. Phillips, now 1-0 with a 1.86 earned-run average, worked three innings, allowing one run on two hits with three strikeouts and a walk. He qualified for the win due to the Larks announcing before the game that they were team pitching.
"Basically just came out and got the start, shake the cobwebs out and got prepared for the weekend," Phillips said. "Probably be back in my closing role. Just wanted to go out there and throw strikes and make the other team prove they can hit it and just put it in the zone."
Jamie Young, a Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College product, followed with his first appearance of the season, an outing that yielded one run in two innings. Kyle Peterson finished with two scoreless innings. Offensively, center fielder Brandon Eckerle and Martin wreaked havoc at the top of the order.
"The top of our order, those guys get on base, they are going to score 75 percent of the time because they run so well," Leo said. "They are going to steal a base, they are going to get an extra base, when they put a ball in play, the defense knows they are going to have to rush a throw."
Eckerle, a three-year Lark, scored four runs and had three stolen bases for Hays (9-4). Martin finished with four hits, four runs scored, three RBIs and two stolen bases. Martin reached on a bunt single in the first inning, got aboard on an error in the second and chopped a single in the third to reach first base. He carries a team-high .415 batting average.
"Speed, blazing fast," Colorado manager Dick Orcutt said of Martin. "We got a little too relaxed on a couple of plays."
In addition, the Larks took advantage of seven walks by Sox starter Cory Ast. Hays tallied seven runs in the first three innings, including five in the second. Colorado (12-4) left three pitchers at home because of an important league doubleheader on Sunday, and was left with a limited roster.
"And we have two injuries," Orcutt said. "We have a very skeleton crew. (Ast) was really throwing on too little rest and he just lost it for a while. We had to leave him in because to get the three-game set in, we didn't have enough manpower to pull him out or we would have. He had to find a way to get back in some kind of a rhythm."
In Game 2, Hays starter Riley Welch (5.91 ERA in a team-high eight appearances) continued to mix solid and subpar outings. On Thursday, he permitted three runs on three hits and four walks in 21βΡ3 innings. He gave up a pair of two-run homers in his one inning of work on Tuesday.
"It's a mental frame," Leo said. "It's all about your focus. Last Friday night against El Dorado, he was outstanding, he threw six up, six down. ... It's there. He needs to be mentally tough on every pitch. He gets guys to two strikes and he makes a mistake."
Jacob Booden (1-2) took the loss in relief. He struck out five over 22βΡ3 innings, but permitted an unearned run off a soft single and error. Cory Jordan followed with his best performance of the season, striking out six over two innings. However, two errors and a bloop hit led to another run. That proved the difference as the Larks mustered six hits against Colorado starter Andrew Scheid. The series wraps up with a single game today at 7 p.m. at Larks Park.
"They accomplished what we wanted to," Leo said. "Unfortunately Booden gets the loss because they got a two-hit bloop hit and a guy got on base by an error. That's uncharacteristic of us to make errors. We have been a very good defensive team. The same thing with Jordan's run. A guy gets on base by an error and then they get a bloop two-out hit down the left field line. Those guys got their work in, unfortunately they had to throw up zeroes with the way our offense was swinging."
Hays scored three runs in the first in Game 2. Cody Gougler hit an RBI single in the inning and Andrew Heck drove in a run with a groundout. After Colorado took a 5-3 lead, Ollie Goulder hit a solo home run in the sixth for the Larks.