By NICK McQUEEN
In a 2-1 10-inning win Saturday night against the Liberal Bee Jays, the Hays Larks failed to get several key hits when they needed them. Hays blasted out 14 hits, but managed just two runs as it left 12 on base.
Sunday night as the Larks closed out the Liberal series with a 6-3 win, Hays again had trouble converting but produced just enough to get it done. But, it could have been a little more comfortable.
“We didn’t have a lot of opportunities Saturday night,” Larks manager Frank Leo said. “We had some of those tonight to make it a little easier ball game and didn’t get the key hits when we needed them.
“Liberal has been a tough game for us,” Leo added. “They’re well-coached and have some good guys that come out of the pen like we saw with the matchups late in (Sunday’s) game.”
Hays moved to 25-9 overall and 18-9 in Jayhawk League play. Liberal fell to 17-16, 12-16.
Pitching on four days rest, unbeaten Nick Goza turned in another solid outing for Hays, and had a shutout going through 5.2 innings.
Goza (5-0 with a 2.87 earned-run average) didn’t have a strikeout and had a walk and hit a batter, but managed to strand five Liberal runners.
The two runs came in the sixth on a two-out, two-RBI double by Liberal’s Darien McLemore.
“We couldn’t get (McLemore) out all summer,” Leo said. “He seems to rise to the occasion against the Hays Larks.”
Goza was relieved by DJ Carr, who recorded two outs in the seventh. Ian Bentley worked 1.1 innings, giving up one more run to Liberal on an RBI groundout after two passed balls. David Owen pitched a perfect ninth for his team-leading fourth save of the season. He struck out two.
Liberal’s sixth-inning double chipped into Hays’ 5-0 lead. Cody Daily, who had the game-winning base hit Saturday night for Hays in the 10th inning, opened the scoring Sunday. His two-out single scored Ty Gilmore in the first inning to give Hays a 1-0 lead. Then in the third, Mackenzie Handel drew a bases-loaded walk for the RBI, and Hays plated three in the fourth to take the 5-0 lead. Aaron Cornell delivered a two-RBI base hit with two outs.
“(Liberal starter Justin Schnedler) is a very quality pitcher,” Leo said. “He came out and just did a great job. Aaron Cornell’s base hit tonight was huge.”
Taylor Petersen added a solo home run in the seventh.
Hays and the Bee Jays split their eight-game season series. The league-leading Larks have lost four to Liberal and three games to Wellington. The other two league losses have come to El Dorado and Derby.
“They come to play when they come to Hays,” Leo said. “It’s a good rivalry. We’re very happy to split the season series and get two wins at home.”
The focus now shifts to Dodge City in today’s 7 p.m. matchup. Dodge City is 14-17 overall and 7-17 in league play and has not played since Wednesday. Assuming last week’s makeup game with El Dorado is not necessary, Hays has six league games remaining with a two-game lead on the Broncos in league play.
“(Dodge) will be rested and we’ll see their No. 1,” Leo said. “We’re going to have to ask our bullpen again to stretch it out a little bit.
“We have to get after it,” he added. “The work here the past two days doesn’t give a lot of ground if we don’t come out and play against Dodge.”