By CONOR NICHOLL
Hays Larks' outfielder Codi Harshman sat with his head in his hands for several minutes after Thursday night's defeat. After all his teammates left, pitcher Travis Lumby stayed alone in the dugout and looked out to the field, not moving, after he took the loss. Manager Frank Leo and assistant coaches Keith Harper and Doug Dreher, all frustrated, had a postgame meeting and deconstructed a tough 3-2, 10-inning Jayhawk League defeat to El Dorado at Larks Park.
Hays, which lost to El Dorado 11-1 and 9-1 on the road two weeks ago, delivered a better showing in the first contest of a six-game home stand. However, several unique plays, including a call on what appeared to be a double by Kyle Peterson, and trouble hitting with men on base trumped nine terrific innings from starter Andrew Heck and ended the Larks' season-high three-game winning streak.
"We are pretty disappointed," Leo said.
Key baserunning plays hurt the Larks:
* Rafael Valenzuela was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double in the eighth.
* Andy Lewton, who carried the game-winning run, was thrown out at home in the bottom of the ninth.
* El Dorado scored the deciding run in the 10th when Kurt Walker scored from second on a fielder's choice.
No play was more controversial than Peterson's apparent double.
With the Larks down 2-1 in the seventh, Peterson launched a leadoff pinch-hit into the gap in right-center field and reached second base easily.
However, El Dorado appealed the play and the field umpire called Peterson out for missing first base.
"That turned that inning around, I know it did," Leo said. "It didn't lose the game for us. We had opportunities, can't blame that right there, but it sure would have given us an opportunity late to do something to make some noise."
Peterson jogged over from second and showed the umpire where he touched first and Dreher, coaching first, argued the call.
"He (the umpire) just didn't believe me, I guess," Peterson said. "Even Doug was there at the top of his lungs. That could have won the game for us, runner on second base with nobody out, I could have scored."
Helped by two groundouts, El Dorado kept Hays scoreless in the inning.
"All I know is that Coach Dreher is pretty mellow, so when he gets upset about something, it is pretty obvious that it was a missed call," Leo said. "Umpires got to make that decision.
"That's an outright double. The guy is not cheating to get to a base. It's an outright double. Unless he blatantly steps way off the base -- and if it's borderline and if it's right there and Coach Dreher said he was right there on the corner -- but he is in charge. He makes the call."
Heck kept the deficit at 2-1 when he held El Dorado scoreless in the eighth and ninth innings and completed his longest outing in his two-year Lark career. Heck, 2-0 with 2.05 earned-run average in a team-high 261âÑ3 innings, allowed just two first-inning runs on three soft singles and two errors.
El Dorado put the first five men on base before a meeting from Harper helped settle the right-hander.
"I knew I had good stuff, and when you have good stuff, you are mad when they get to you, in the first, especially," Heck said.
Heck has had success this summer by throwing fastballs on the outside corner. He changed his approach after the first inning. Heck consistently pounded the strike zone all game, throwing 47 of his first 56 pitches for strikes and 100 pitches total. He had his first two-ball count in the seventh inning and retired 17 of 20 batters in one span.
"I kind of think they were looking for that (outside fastball) a little bit," he said. "The rest of the eight innings I went, I started throwing them in, just busting them in with fastballs and didn't throw much off-speed, just stayed with the fastball."
Hays, though, had trouble scoring off league leader El Dorado (13-4 overall, 10-4 Jayhawk), a team that had beaten the Larks (7-7, 4-6) twice already.
"We definitely took this one a little more personal than the other games considering they are in first place," Peterson said.
Hays collected eight hits and left 11 men on base. The call on Peterson's hit also short-circuited another rally.
"I don't see how he can make that call in a big game like this, but it happens," Heck said. "Stuff happens, but we have to come back. We have to overcome it. You have to deal with adversity."
The Larks did, tying in the game in the ninth on a two-out, bases loaded single from Rick Devereaux. Lewton tried to score from second on the hit, but was thrown out by several feet.
In the 10th, Lumby (0-3), the Larks' leader in walks allowed with 12, permitted two one-out walks before Chase Barrera, in his first appearance for Hays, relieved. Barrera coaxed Travis Whipple to hit a groundball to Josh Garcia at first. Garcia threw to second for the force, but the Larks couldn't turn the double play. Walker, who was on second base, scored easily with the go-ahead run.
"The play just set up just right for them," Leo said. "It wasn't a bang-bang play at first. It was a slow chopper which gives your runner at second base, if you have got any kind of speed, you teach guys to do that. You teach them to keep going. You got nothing to lose. ... (I) felt like we were not ready. We were too focused on a double play."
In the 10th, the Larks had two on with one out before Harshman grounded into a game-ending double play, a frustrating end to a tough loss.
Nick Ward, the fifth El Dorado pitcher, worked two innings for the victory.
El Dorado and Hays will wind up the four-game series with 7 p.m. games today, Saturday and Sunday at Larks Park.