By CONOR NICHOLL
Jason Zgardowski came to the Hays Larks on Friday night after he helped Midland (Tex.) Community College win a conference championship, a regional title and make the first NJCAA World Series appearance in school history. Zgardowski was the lone Midland pitcher to earn a World Series win and finished as the team's ace with a 9-1 record, program-best 3.21 earned-run average in 15 contests, including seven complete games and three shutouts.
First, Zgardowski watched Hays come from behind and defeat El Dorado in 11 innings on Friday on a walk-off homer from Desmond Roberts.
"It was a great introduction," Zgardowski said
On Saturday, Zgardowski worked seven shutout innings as Hays delivered a 7-0 victory against El Dorado at Larks Park on Military Appreciation Night. Before the contest, they gave the Larks a quick message after they were honored in a pregame ceremony.
"As all the veterans were coming off the field, they were like, 'Hey, you put on a good show tonight. We want to go home early tonight,' " Zgardowski said.
The Larks delivered a clean, crisp game in 2 hours, 25 minutes. Then Hays finished the series sweep with a 12-2 win on Sunday. Nick Goza earned the win with seven innings of one-run ball and the Larks moved to 7-1, 4-1 Jayhawk League. Wellington (formerly Haysville) also is 4-1 in league play. El Dorado dropped to 5-3, 3-3 in league play.
For Zgardowski, it was a weekend in classic Larks baseball: winning, large fan base and great support. Before the summer, Zgardowski, from San Antonio and a San Angelo State signee, had never heard of Hays.
"Just trust my defense and just throw strikes," Zgardowski said. "The fans here are awesome. I even got the phone call from coach (Keith) Harper and he said, 'This is the best summer event you will be a part of.' I am just loving it right now."
Zgardowski did walk five batters, but struck out eight and allowed just two hits. Helped by great movement from his fastball and quality secondary pitches, Zgardowski retired 12 in a row at one point.
"A gem," manager Frank Leo said. "His control will be better than that. I think maybe just getting a little comfortable on that mound early in the game, but once he settled in, he was pretty tough. ... Everything we were told, we saw out here tonight. A competitor, he works with good rhythm. He is quick to the plate. He is going to give our catchers a chance. Very pleased."
Hays tallied single runs in the second and third, two runs in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh.
"The offense made key hits when they had to," Leo said.
Second baseman Zair Koeiman, one of the Larks' top players from last year, had struggled early on, but delivered a two-run double in the fifth inning. Koeiman hit a line drive to deep right field on a 2-2 pitch that barely cleared Christian Cox's glove.
When Koeiman was halfway to second base, he actually thought Cox had the ball in his glove. Koeiman turned around and saw that Cox didn't have the ball and was happy.
"It felt great," Koeiman said Saturday. "I have been seeing the ball really well. I am just not making great contact. But I have patience. I am just waiting for when the day comes. One of these days, I am going to break out of it. I wouldn't call it a slump. It's always not frustrating. I will just say that it's part of baseball."
On Sunday, Koeiman went 2 of 5 with a double, run scored and three RBIs. Prior to Saturday's double, Koeiman hadn't had a hit in the series and was 5 of 22 this year.
Jake Placzek, batting .450, continued to hit well in the No. 2 spot. He went 2 of 5 with five runs scored and three RBIs.
The bottom of the lineup with shortstop Elvin Rodriguez and third baseman Ty Gilmore continued to come through. Rodriguez went 0 of 3 Saturday, but scored a run and drove in a run. Gilmore was 2 of 4 with three RBIs.
On Sunday, Rodriguez went 2 of 4 with two runs scored, while Gilmore was 2 of 3 with two runs scored and a walk. Gilmore now carries a .360 average, while Rodriguez is batting .273 with team highs in runs scored (12) and walks (11).
"When 8 and 9 become tough outs and you are going to go seven, eight pitches against 8, 9 and then you are going to turn that over against the top of the order, it's going to make a long night for a pitcher, they are going to have to work hard," Leo said.