By CONOR NICHOLL
For manager Frank Leo, the goal of Monday's non-league contest against the Denver Cougars was for Logan DeRosier and Alex Frey to see some innings and for top players Clayton Garland, Taylor Petersen and Jake Placzek to have a day off.
DeRosier worked four innings and earned the win in a 7-2 home victory in a team-pitched game at Larks Park. Frey pitched two relief innings. Placzek and Petersen didn't play after logging nearly every inning of the summer.
"We have had nine guys and had to run them out there," Leo said. "It's nice to get some bodies back and get healthy. We still need to find a couple of arms. It was good. We got accomplished what we wanted to tonight."
Garland eventually entered the game and went 1 for 3 with a walk after center fielder Desmond Roberts left with a respiratory infection. Aaron Cornell played in his first home game after he missed some time with a knee injury and went 2 of 5 with two RBI. Brent Gillispie and Mackenzie Handel homered for Hays, which moved to 2-0 against Denver this year. The Larks had 12 hits.
"I think we have a lot of potential to do a lot of things coming down the stretch," Handel said. "It was good to have tonight to get back to where we were."
Andy Lewton and Kyle Leroy, former Fort Hays State University pitchers, pitched the final three innings and allowed one hit. As well, new catcher Spencer Neve, from California, joined the team and went 2 for 2 with two doubles, a run scored and an RBI.
Neve was delayed because of the plane crash in San Francisco.
"He did a great job behind the plate," Leo said. "I like the way he swung it."
Now the focus shifts back to league play for the Larks (22-8, league-leading 15-8 Jayhawk League). Hays travels to El Dorado (18-11, 15-10 Jayhawk) for a three-game series starting today at 7 p.m.
"We know we are beat up right now," Handel said. "Going into the series, we have got a few guys back. Obviously, Cornell is back, so we are going to go there with all of our fire back."
Because of injuries to Colin Hightower and Jeff Chesnut, Hays is down to three starting pitchers in Jason Zgardowski, Chandler Hawkins and Nick Goza.
"It has been tremendously challenging," Leo said of roster construction. "It was a challenge at the start before we got started, we lost about seven guys. It seems like it's been an ongoing recruit all summer. Now, this late in and having to replace that many guys, it's not easy. We have had calls out all over the place."
Hightower is out indefinitely with arm problems, while Chestnut was shut down last Wednesday after an arm injury.
Zgardowski, Hawkins and Goza will pitch the next three games and then Hays is off Friday. However, the Larks currently don't have a starter for Saturday's home game against Liberal.
"Right now, it's a big question," Leo said.
Leo said the Larks could team-pitch Saturday and start one of the relievers, such as David Owen (0.47 earned-run average), D.J. Carr (1.84) or Ian Bentley (2.66).
Hays has done this occasionally throughout the years, including 2008, when closer and eventual Jayhawk Pitcher of the Year Steven Mazur made a spot, four-inning start.
Brandon Anderson, who started two games earlier in the summer and then missed some time with a shoulder injury, has pitched in relief, but isn't healthy enough to start.
"That might be a situation," Leo said of a reliever starting. "We don't want to completely deplete the bullpen. But we've got to get somebody out there."