By CONOR NICHOLL
In the first of May, Hays Larks manager Frank Leo discovered University of Arizona shortstop Bryce Ortega, the Larks' projected shortstop, couldn't play for Hays because of summer school. Leo started a search and slowly moved farther west in his search.
"It wasn't easy. That was two weeks of bearing down to try to find players. I told somebody I couldn't go too much farther west," Leo said with a smile. "I kept inching and inching. If I would have gone too much further west, I would have been in the Pacific Ocean and had to find a fish."
Instead, Leo talked with Loyola Marymount (Calif.) University assistant coach Drew Keehn, a coach who is trying to recruit shortstop Sean Wilson from College of San Mateo (Calif.), Keehn put Leo in touch with the shortstop, and Wilson signed with the Larks.
Wilson arrived Friday afternoon and led the Larks to a 12-1 victory over the Denver Cougars on Saturday night at Larks Park. Wilson went 5-for-5 with three doubles, three RBIs, two stolen bases and a superb defensive play he called "kind of like a dream." A smiling Wilson said the last time he had a five-hit game "was maybe Little League."
"Five, I was pretty excited for that," he said.
Wilson's night helped Hays generate a 17-hit attack that included four homers. Josh Garcia went 3-for-4 with a homer, while Ollie Goulder and Jason Morriss also homered. In his second night of the Larks' designated "beverage batter," Morriss collected three hits and homered. On Wednesday, Morris went 4-for-4 as the beverage batter and jokingly told Leo afterward that he should be the beverage batter every game.
"He said I like that," Leo said. "He got a lot of respect out there. They were bowing to him up in the stands. Kind of fun to see. It was a good night for Larks baseball. He is becoming a crowd favorite obviously, especially when he is the beverage batter."
Andrew Heck (1-0) worked five shutout innings for the victory, while Grant Gillespie, Andy Lewton and Kyle Peterson provided solid relief for Hays (3-1). Wilson, though, collected another fine contest after his summer was uncertain in May. He was playing with a team in northern California.
"I was kind of waiting to hopefully pick up with a summer team somewhere," he said.
Two days after the school year ended, Wilson said "he had no idea what he was going to do." He went home and then, a few days later, received a call after Leo had talked with Keehn . Two weeks ago, when Leo was coaching Hays High School at the Class 5A state tournament, he and Wilson discussed the summer.
"We were in phone contact back and forth a little bit," Leo said. "He said I would love to come out and play. I have heard good things about the Jayhawk League and Hays."
On Friday, he woke up at 4 a.m. in California, his flight left about 6:30 a.m. and landed in Denver. He was supposed to remain in Denver for about 20 minutes, but was delayed an hour. Wilson played in Game 2 of Friday's doubleheader and went 2-for-4.
"I got to come in and play right away, and that was nice," he said.
On Saturday, he doubled in a run and scored in a three-run first. In the second, Wilson doubled to left and stole third as Hays took a 6-0 lead. In the top of the third, Wilson made a play that resembled a clip he saw on ESPN on Thursday. He was at the Romes, his host family and talking with his host father and host brother when they saw a shortstop make a play deep in the hole.
"I was kind of like thinking about that play during the game," he said.
Wilson made a similar play with two on and two out. Derek DiCarlo hit a ground ball kicked off third baseman Garcia's glove.
Wilson fielded the ball on the outfield grass and threw out DiCarlo to end the inning and save a run. He tacked on two singles and a double in his final at-bats to complete the terrific start.
"He has done a great job," Leo said.