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K-State falls short of upset bid against No. 3 Arizona -11/26/2014, 9:17 AM

Tiger women move to 4-1 -11/26/2014, 9:17 AM

Tiger men grind out win -11/26/2014, 9:17 AM

Top seven spots remain unchanged in latest College Football Playoff rankings -11/26/2014, 9:16 AM

Ravens pull away in second half for 34-27 victory over Saints -11/25/2014, 10:21 AM

Wildcats prep for Jayhawks -11/25/2014, 10:21 AM

KSU beats Purdue in Maui, No. 3 Arizona next -11/25/2014, 10:21 AM

Tigers earn all-region honors -11/25/2014, 10:21 AM

Berry out with possible cancer -11/25/2014, 10:21 AM

No. 11 Kansas returns to form in 87-60 win -11/25/2014, 10:11 AM

Lehman named MIAA Player of the Week -11/24/2014, 11:09 AM

Romo rallies Cowboys past Giants for 31-28 win -11/24/2014, 10:33 AM

Dolphins collapse, lose to Broncos -11/24/2014, 10:33 AM

Wichita State routs Newman, now 3-0 -11/24/2014, 10:32 AM

TCU closing in on program's first Big 12 title -11/24/2014, 10:32 AM

KSU's Weber has strong ties with Purdue, Painter -11/24/2014, 10:32 AM

Tigers' Page wins at UNK Open -11/24/2014, 10:32 AM

FHSU soccer falls in quarterfinals -11/24/2014, 10:32 AM

Tigers move on to Elite Eight -11/23/2014, 7:43 PM

Tiger men pick up second win -11/23/2014, 7:43 PM

Tigers search for new coaches -11/23/2014, 7:43 PM

Phillipsburg drops a heartbreaker to end season -11/23/2014, 7:42 PM

KVA all-state volleyball teams -11/23/2014, 7:42 PM

Tiger women roll to second straight win -11/23/2014, 7:42 PM

Knights claim state title -11/22/2014, 10:46 AM

Tigers' Paraguay soccer connection -11/21/2014, 10:56 AM

One last go for Knights' seniors -11/21/2014, 5:00 PM

Phillipsburg one step away -11/21/2014, 10:47 AM

McPherson standout signs with FHSU -11/20/2014, 2:35 PM

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Atwood 76, St. Francis 65

Dighton 62, Oberlin 47

Hillsboro 50, Goodland 47

Lakeside 42, Lincoln 32

Minneapolis 68, Russell 35

Rock Hills 42, Natoma 37

Salina Central 62, Andover 58

Salina South 62, Sacred Heart 47

Sharon Springs 75, Leoti 38

St. John's Beloit-Tipton 57, Osborne 34

Sylvan-Lucas 61, Thunder Ridge 48

Girls

Dighton 44, Atwood 11

Dodge City 71, Hays High 28

Hesston 51, Goodland 18

Hoisington 60, Victoria 46

Hoxie 65, St. Francis 13

Lincoln 33, Lakeside 26

Minneapolis 47, Otis-Bison 24

Osborne 59, Wilson 34

Sharon Springs 63, Oberlin 42

Sylvan-Lucas 43, Natoma 41 (ot)

Tescott 41, Rock Hills 33

Trego 56, Leoti 27

Thunder Ridge 33, St. John's Beloit-Tipton 30

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After layoff, Larks ready for NBC

Published on -8/2/2013, 10:35 AM

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By NICK McQUEEN

nmcqueen@dailynews.net

Early in the season, the Hays Larks' streak put them well out in front of the Jayhawk League.

Hays started a remarkable 14-1 overall and 10-1 in league play, one of the best starts under longtime manager Frank Leo.

But, Leo has always said what really matters is what his club does in July. The Larks had to battle, seemingly more so than most years, through injury and departures, to grind out the club's second straight league championship.

Their reward was a Championship Week berth under the new format of the National Baseball Congress World Series. Under the new system, the Larks had a nine-day layoff after earning the title. They filled it with three games.

But Hays did use that time to figure some things out, and get a little healthier.

"We had a lot of intensity going to win the Jayhawk League title," Leo said. "It came down to the last couple ball games.

"It's good to get a mental break," he added. "Physically, we needed to strengthen up a little. The trip to Colorado (a doubleheader with the Colorado Sox) helped a little. We got some game action."

More importantly, it gave Hays a chance to get a sub some time at first base, bring in some new pitchers, and gear up for Saturday's first game in the final 16 at the NBC, a 7 p.m. start Saturday with the Case Grande (Ariz.) Cotton Kings. The Larks take a 33-11 mark into the field.

"I actually like (the new format)," said third-year Lark Aaron Cornell, who was part of last year's Larks team to lose in their first game at the NBC. "We had to fight all the way back. That's tough after you play so many games.

"Now you work hard all year (for the title), and you get a week off and go in fresh."

Cornell was one of several Larks this season to suffer an injury, and was one who thought his summer might be over after some thought he would need meniscus surgery. He, like many on the roster, battled through. Others weren't so fortunate. Leo said roster shuffling this season was at an all-time high due to injury. Most recently, first baseman Cody Daily was sent home with a knee injury. Five position players and five pitchers departed during the course of the season -- injury or otherwise.

Brent Gillespie, an infielder from Santa Rosa (Calif.) Community College, has subbed in and will take over first base duties the rest of the way.

"We'll go with the 10 we've got (position players) -- stay healthy, stay strong," Leo said. "We don't have a lot of maneuverability during the course of a ball game."

What the Larks do have is a strong bullpen.

During the layoff, Hays added veteran right-hander Aaron Breit and reliever Graylon Brown, who was a reliever/closer for the Derby Twins this summer. The two add to an already deep pen that includes mainly Ian Bentley (3-1, 2.43 earned-run average), DJ Carr (1-0, 3.00, 2 saves) and David Owen (2-1, 0.33, 5 saves).

"If our starters can get us into the sixth inning and get us a lead, we're going to have firepower to come after it," Leo said.

Left-hander Chandler Hawkins (5-2, 2.43) will get the nod against the Cotton Kings. Nick Goza (6-1, 2.18) and Jason Zgardowski (4-3, 2.81) are Nos. 2 and 3 in the rotation. Beyond that, Leo will tackle that when it comes, a bonus that comes along with only playing in the 16-team field instead of having to grind through a 32-team marathon.

"But it's still going to be eight days of focus," Leo said. "You have to win five games. It still means you have to go four deep, and bring two back.

"When you're in that 16-day grind, you push guys a little bit harder."

The Hays offense has been driven in the top of the order by Cornell, Jake Placzek, Clayton Garland, Taylor Petersen and Ty Gilmore. Garland and Cornell (.378 and .368 average) lead the way. Garland, with team-high 38 RBIs, has been clutch. He and Cornell have enjoyed a hot July, despite battling injury.

Cornell was part of a Larks' club that was honored as the best offensive team last summer at the NBC after they battled back to take third after losing their first game.

"You have to take it one day, one game at a time," he said. "It's the same concept. If you get beat that first day, you still have to fight.

"We are just hoping to save our pitchers by making it through that winners' bracket this year.SDRq

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