By CONOR NICHOLL
WICHITA -- All summer, coaches and teammates have labeled Hays Larks ace right-hander Andrew Heck and catcher Ollie Goulder as intelligent players, a duo that knows how to mix pitches and shut down opponent lineups, The pitcher and catcher worked together to help Heck become a dominating workhorse in Jayhawk League play and the National Baseball Congress World Series.
Tuesday yielded further evidence of Heck and Goulder's ability in a 6-2 victory against the Sedalia (Mo.) Bombers in an elimination game at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Heck continually kept Sedalia, one of the tournament's best hitting teams, off-balance with his assortment of fastball, slider and changeup. On a day when temperatures oscillated between 88 and 100 degrees, Heck pitched eight strong innings using 119 pitches, with seven hits and two walks against six strikeouts.
"He has a great understanding of the game," Larks manager Frank Leo said. "When you have a pitcher out there with a great understanding and a catcher behind the plate in Ollie Goulder that has a great understanding of the game, that is a pretty good combination."
After Kurt Wunderlich and Patrick Cooper worked complete games Saturday and Monday, Heck nearly matched their feat.
Instead, he fashioned his second straight eight-inning start in the World Series and moved to 2-0 with a 1.69 earned-run average in the tournament. In the Wold Series, Heck's 16 innings are second to the Southern California Bombers' Garrett Carpenter's 18, while the Larks' right-hander's two victories are tied for the tourney's best.
"They all asked me if I had a (complete game) in me. I came out after the eighth and I was pretty much done and they were all on my case. They were all joking with me when I came out. I took it. I told them I got 16 (innings). You guys only have nine," Heck said with a laugh.
Chase Barrera pitched a scoreless ninth for Hays.
Hays (31-15 overall, 4-1 NBC) is scheduled to play against the Crestwood (Ill.) Panthers today at 5 p.m. Crestwood is the lone team still playing that lost its first contest. Since then, the Panthers have reeled off four straight victories. The winner moves into the final six. Eddie Carl (5-4) is Hays' probable starter.
Heck, a middle infielder who pitched well in limited appearances for Hays in 2008, has emerged as the best multi-faceted player in Leo's 27 years. The right-hander, who also carries .330 batting average, moved to 6-0 and lowered his team-best ERA to 1.79.
"I felt I have pitched as well, if not better than I expected," Heck said. "You never want to say you are there because I can definitely improve, but I feel like my jump from last year to this year was good. It's a benchmark for my jump from this year to next year in my opinion."
The strike-throwing Heck became the fifth pitcher in Larks' history to post a 6-0 or better record. It's a group that includes Wunderlich, who moved to 6-0 with his shutout Saturday.
"Pretty consistent with the zone," Sedalia manager Jud Kindle said. "He was spotting in and out with his fastball and keeping us off-balance with his off-speed pitch. He did a good job of throwing strikes. He got ahead of, I would say, probably 90 percent of the hitters."
Heck, the team leader in nearly every pitching category, is even better with Goulder, a Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) Community College product who has allowed just two passed balls and thrown out 40 percent of runners attempting to steal.
"He does a tremendous job back there, he really does," Leo said. "He has such a good feel for the game, mixes up the pitches. Of course, the pitcher has to execute, but Ollie is doing a good job, and pitchers trust him. When he puts down a signal, they trust that is a good one. He is just a complete package behind the plate. Tremendous catcher."
Goulder has helped Heck, too. Heck has allowed 10 runs in 60 innings when Goulder is the catcher. He has permitted five runs in 11 1/3 innings when Goulder is not behind the plate.
"I like throwing to Ollie," Heck said. "He calls a good game."
Against Sedalia, a team that entered Tuesday fifth in the tournament in runs per game (6.33), Heck and Goulder noticed the Bombers swung often and hit fastballs well. They showed the fastball often the first time through the order, throwing more off-speed.
"I felt like I was around the strike zone pretty well all day," Heck said. "I felt like they were getting good swings on my fastball, so I had to go to my off-speed a little bit more. Credit Ollie. He sees that a lot and he is real good with that."
"They swung it pretty good," Leo said. "They got up there and took their hacks. Andrew was a good matchup there because he had the offspeed stuff. You get a straight fastball pitcher out there, I think that club can do some damage."
Instead, Heck shut out Sedalia until the eighth. Mainly a fastball-changeup pitcher last summer, a more mature Heck has worked with Larks' pitching coach Keith Harper on an improved slider. It's helped against right-handed batters, including Sedalia's lineup that started six righties.
"I needed a good pitch against righties," Heck said. "I am pretty good against lefties because of my changeup, but we needed that slider to be effective for the righties, too, and I feel like it's been good."
Heck halted a fourth-inning rally with a double-play ball and worked around a sixth inning jam. With runners on first and third and one out in the sixth, Heck faced Tyler Paxson. Heck threw three straight breaking balls -- and Paxson struck out on three pitches.
"Ollie saw that kid wasn't going to touch a breaking ball," Heck said. "Credit Ollie on that. He is real good for seeing that kind of stuff. He knows how to call a game."
Hays provided Heck with a 5-0 cushion with two runs in the second and three more in the fifth versus Sedalia ace and losing pitcher Blake Barber.
Goulder hit a run-scoring single in the second. No. 9 hitter Codi Harshman, who started the tournament 2-for-11, went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, including a run-scoring single in the second and an RBI single in the eighth.
"For Codi, it was something good for him," Leo said. "The guys are excited for him. That kind of built up some confidence."
Hays had five straight two-out hits in the fifth, including an RBI double by Isaac Garcia and a two-run ground ball single from Rick Devereaux.
Heck tired in the eighth and fell three outs short of a complete game. Instead, he fashioned his seventh outing of at least seven innings. All seven have come with Goulder catching.
"Ollie is real good behind the plate calling a game," Heck said. "It's pretty fun to throw to him."