By CONOR NICHOLL
The Hays Larks could add four more position players by the weekend series at home versus Jayhawk League newcomer Haysville Heat. Pitching-wise, though, Hays manager Frank Leo is still looking to add more arms.
"I think we are going to have outstanding versatility and flexibility," Leo said.
First baseman Zak Leonhardt, an Angelo State (Texas) University product who hit .373 with seven homers and 60 RBIs during the college season, was expected to fly in Monday and play against Dodge City tonight. Bradley University third baseman Rob Elliot -- expected to play at second for the Larks -- planned to arrive Hays tonight and be ready to play this weekend. Elliot batted .341 with 14 extra-base hits and 15 stolen bases this spring.
"Outstanding player," Leo said.
Two players from San Jacinto (Texas) Community College, third baseman/shortstop Larry Rodriguez and pitcher Cory Jordan, should be in by the end of the week. San Jacinto finished second in the junior college world series after losing twice in the final to Iowa Western. Rodriguez batted .305 with a team-high eight homers this spring, while Jordan didn't pitch.
"I thought they had a great chance to win it all, but that Iowa Western must be pretty good to beat them in back-to-back games," Leo said. "Hopefully they will be in by the weekend series."
Left-hander Vincent Littleman, a potential starter for the Larks, spent the spring season pitching for the University of Arizona; the Wildcats finished play in the NCAA tournament on Sunday. Littleman posted a 2-0 record and 5.95 earned-run average in 14 games (2 starts) for the 34-24 Wildcats.
Trent Wilson, the Larks' likely closer after he saved 13 games for Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) Community College in the spring, will not play summer baseball because of an arm injury. Mark Phillips, a Gonzaga (Wash.) University product, earned the save in Game 2 of Sunday's doubleheader against Denver and pitched a scoreless inning in both contests.
"Still trying to find a couple of arms," Leo said. "Trent Wilson is definitely done. He is going to have surgery."
Right-hander Patrick Cooper, a three-year Lark, thought he could be drafted Tuesday, the second day of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft. Cooper was correct. The 6-foot-3, 204-pound Cooper was picked in the 14th round (No. 433 overall) by the Detroit Tigers. Cooper, 10-3 with a 2.41 ERA in his Larks' career, was drafted last year by the Arizona Diamondbacks but did not sign.
Two-way player Andrew Heck, another three-year Lark, was not selected on Day 2 of the draft. Heck, a first team all-Atlantic 10 selection and one of 25 players nominated nationally for the John Olerud Award given to the nation's top-two player, was named the Jayhawk League's No. 3 prospect by Baseball America after last summer. TheBaseballDraftReport.com listed Heck as one of the Atlantic-10's top 12 players.
The draft ends today.
Bullpen strong early
Sunday night yielded a pair of shutouts, 5-0 and 3-0, for the Larks. While Cooper and Heck combined for eight scoreless innings as Hays' two starting pitchers, multiple relievers also threw well for Hays. In Game 1, right-hander Andy Lewton worked two shutout innings with no hits allowed, one walk and one strikeout. Phillips followed with a perfect inning and two strikeouts. In Game 2, Riley Welch worked two scoreless innings and Phillips followed with a perfect seventh.
"The thing I like out of the bullpen is that they threw strikes," Leo said. "It's important. You know you are not going to have a lot of hitting going on. If you are a quality pitcher, they are not going to bang you around much. How you get hurt is if you walk people, and I thought our bullpen came out and pounded the zone real good. Did an excellent job. We were pleased with everyone."
Lewton, a Hays High School and Fort Hays State University product, was used exclusively in middle relief last summer and posted a 1-1 record and 3.26 ERA in 17 games. This spring, the Tigers used Lewton as a starting pitcher. He posted a 2-6 record and 6.57 ERA in 11 starts before being switched back to the bullpen this spring.
"Andy, I think, is in a good role now," Leo said. "He can just go hard now for a couple innings, turn it loose. The good thing about Andy (Sunday night) is we saw some bite in his slider. That is a good pitch for him."
Patzner makes appearance
The Denver Cougars were low on pitching for their Sunday series and called several Kansas players to come pitch, including right-hander Matt Patzner, a Fort Hays product. Patzner, not a full-time roster member, worked four innings in Game 2, allowing two runs on one hit with two strikeouts against six walks.
Patzner, a Great Bend native, underwent Tommy John surgery on his arm and pitched little this spring. He didn't have a decision with a 20.25 ERA in two games (11‚—3 innings) for the Tigers.
"Kept us in the ballgame and that's all that I could ask," Denver manager Mark Cerullo said. "I knew with Patzner that he had arm problems, had Tommy John surgery, so I was glad to see him go out there and compete and just give us a chance to be in the ballgame."