By CONOR NICHOLL
Shortly after Friday night's game finished, Hays Larks left-handed reliever Eric Rose walked by the section of fans standing near the third-base line. Several people congratulated him on his fine performance. A few minutes later, Larks starter Eddie Carl came over to Rose, slapped him on the back and said, "Good job."
The encouragement punctuated a fine outing for Rose and continued a turnaround after a slow start for the second-year Lark. Rose enjoyed a perfect ninth inning for his team-leading second save in a 4-2 win against El Dorado at Larks Park.
Rose labeled the night "pretty cool," while Larks manager Frank Leo said Rose -- who struck out two and coaxed a short fly ball -- "chewed guys up."
"Maybe the arm was feeling better," Leo said. "The vibes were good tonight and maybe that is what he needs to get over the hill."
Rose has encountered multiple injuries in his collegiate career. He had back surgery in December 2006, and redshirted the 2007 season at the University of Nebraska before he headed to Hays for the summer. Rose, a 6-foot-2, 227-pounder, went 4-2 with three saves in 17 games as the Larks finished second in the National Baseball Congress World Series. He missed 2008 because of labrum surgery and this spring marked his first full collegiate season.
Rose became the go-to reliever for a Cornhusker squad that finished 25-28-1. He pitched in a team-high 25 games, logging a 1-3 record and 7.61 earned-run average in 232βΡ3 innings.
"I was happy with the work I got," he said. "I didn't necessarily take the best care of myself, and that is my fault. I should be ready any time they call on me, but I wasn't, and I regret that for sure."
By spring's end, Rose was worn down and finished the school season "on a pretty rough note." He faced arm fatigue early in the summer.
"He had been talking about a tired arm," Leo said. "His control had not been good, but tonight it was."
Rose has often talked with Larks reliever Andy Lewton, a former Hays High School graduate who missed nearly two years with a variety of arm injuries and surgeries. The duo has pitched in relief for Hays, but saw the early part of the summer go in different directions. Lewton has posted a 1.50 ERA, while Rose had team-high 10.57 ERA entering Friday's contest, including allowing three runs in one inning against Liberal on June 14.
"I had a slow start, didn't have my velocity back for the season, but with (a new long toss) program that I received, it's been working out. I have been feeling a lot healthier," Rose said. "Lewton, he has been through the same stuff and he knows exactly what I am going through. He is a real good teammate to have because he is someone that knows what you are talking about when you are feeling certain ways."
Rose picked up his first save of the season when he threw two innings against Dodge City on Tuesday. Friday marked his next appearance against the league-leading Broncos. El Dorado dropped to 13-5 overall, 10-5 in the Jayhawk League, while Hays moved to 8-7, 5-6, entering Saturday's game.
"Just trying to throw as many fastballs as possible and just try and locate it," Rose said. "The best thing I can do is throw it down the middle and just let my stuff work and it works out for the best for the most of the time, so that is all I can ask for."
"They were swinging through it," Leo said. "That's good. Movement is what it is all about."
Peterson has big night
Kyle Peterson, a Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) Community College product, started slowly this summer, batting .167 and missing two weeks because of injury. He also had bad luck when he delivered an apparent double in Thursday's game, but was called out for missing first base.
The hit, though, impressed Leo and the coaching staff and Peterson batted eighth on Friday, his first time in the starting lineup since June 10.
"We thought he put a good swing on it," Leo said. "We talked about our lineup and we decided to give him a shot today, and it paid off."
Peterson reached base all four times, going 3-for-3 with a walk, bunt single, double and homer. He homered in the fourth and helped tie the game in the seventh when he doubled to left-center and scored on a single by Ollie Goulder.
He delivered the winning run an inning later. After a single, error and sacrifice bunt by Andrew Heck, Peterson delivered a perfect squeeze bunt on a high pitch to score Jason Morriss and was safe at first when El Dorado threw home. The inning marked one of the better bunting games for Hays, an inconsistent area in the team's first 15 contests.
"Everybody is going to have to be able to bunt the baseball," Leo said. "Tonight, our sac game was good. Last night, it wasn't good."
Carl, Gillespie, Lewis solid
Starter Eddie Carl worked six innings, allowing five hits and two runs (none earned) against seven strikeouts and a walk and lowered his ERA to 2.05. Carl has consistently been an effective six-inning pitcher in his two years with the Larks, but has had trouble working deeper into games.
"If he can give us a good six or seven, I think our bullpen is coming on," Leo said. "Eddie, he labors in the count a lot. He kind of wears down when he goes to that sixth inning, a lot of 2-2, 3-2 counts. When he can start to put someone away on that 3-2 count, maybe he can go a little bit deeper."
Grant Gillespie, Calvin Lewis and Rose closed the game. Gillespie ran into trouble in the seventh when he loaded the bases with two out. However, Chad Carman had an inning-ending popup. Lewis, with two victories in three relief appearances this year, retired the side in the eighth for the win.
"That was big," Leo said. "The game really got intense from that point on, and Grant getting the popup, that kind of gets lost in the shuffle, but he did a good job. Calvin had a good eighth inning."
Larsen nearing return
Reliever Chris Larsen, another Chandler Gilbert product, has not pitched since June 14 because of a bicep problem. Larsen, 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA, had an MRI and could return to the Larks this weekend.
"He is about ready to go," Leo said. "Bicep swelling is down and I think he is good to go."