By NICK McQUEEN
While an eventual loss to snap a long winning streak was practically inevitable, Hays Larks manager Frank Leo was just happy his team didn't go out and lay an egg. Simply put, the Larks just got beat Wednesday night at Larks Park.
There wasn't much Hays could have done differently to avoid it against Liberal starter Tyler Wiedenfeld.
Aside from an error in the sixth inning that proved costly, the Larks were solid, but couldn't gain any momentum against a strong outing and eventually fell 6-2.
The loss snapped an 11-game Larks winning streak and dropped Hays to 14-2 overall and 10-2 in league play.
Liberal improved to 9-7, 5-7 in the JL.
"When you're going to get busted up in a winning streak, you want to make sure you just don't kick the ball around and play bad," Leo said. "We played a decent game, but their guy was on. You have to tip your hat."
Wiedenfeld kept the Larks hitless through five innings, while Liberal capitalized on an error in the sixth inning to plate five unearned runs. Larks shortstop Elvin Rodriguez allowed the leadoff runner to reach on the fielding error, but Larks starter Jeff Chesnut (1-1) got the next two outs. Then Liberal squared some balls up and chased Chesnut with five straight singles and a hit batsmen.
The inning eventually was the difference as the Larks' offense was nearly non-existent.
"Elvin has to pick up his defense," Leo said of Rodriguez, whose summer is in flux right now as he makes a decision on his future. "He needs to clear his mind. Within the next couple of days, I think that decision will be made on whether he's going to stay for good or move on.
"That's in the back of his mind," Leo added. "He's a solid ball player, and we need him to pack that back up."
Rodriguez spent Tuesday in Wichita trying out with an independent league team, but was back in the lineup Wednesday.
Clayton Garland, Taylor Petersen and Ty Gilmore were missing from the order, taking a routine night off for rest. All three later suited up, though, and Petersen and Gilmore made pinch-hit appearances when the team was struggling.
The Larks' first hit came on a double by Rodriguez in the sixth after Cody Daily was hit by a pitch. Aaron Cornell drove in Hays' first run on a fly out to left field. The hit was the only hit given up by Wiedenfeld, the sophomore from Seward County Community College. Wiedenfeld was the starter in the Larks' first loss June 4 in Liberal, but took a no-decision.
"Sometimes as a hitter, that guy's going to deal and he did today.
He pitched very well today," Leo said.
"He was keeping everything down. He worked at a good pace, and he got the ball back and attacked the hitters. He stayed up in the count and had some movement on the baseball."
Gilmore's pinch-hit appearance resulted in a double in the eighth, and he scored on Rodriguez' single. Hays did get two baserunners in the ninth with two outs, but Petersen flew out to right field to end it.
"This thing wasn't going to go on forever," Leo said of the 11-game win streak, the Larks' longest since 2003 when they won 13 in a row. "There's going to be a bump. We got a bump, now we just have to make sure it's not a double-bump."
Chesnut gave up five unearned runs on nine hits with three strikeouts and no walks. The Larks went through five pitchers and gave up 11 hits. Kyle Krings made his Larks debut and walked one in the seventh without recording an out. Hays travels to Derby (7-6, 5-6) on Friday to start a three-game series with the Twins. Liberal, which snapped a four-game losing streak, hosts Wellington in a series starting Friday.