By RANDY GONZALES
The Hays Larks overcame one bad inning to beat Dodge City in Tuesday night's Jayhawk League game at Larks Park.
The Athletics took advantage of seven walks and a hit batter to score seven times in the second inning. But the Larks chipped away, and eventually claimed an 11-8 victory.
"Can't say enough about our offense," Hays manager Frank Leo said. "That's a mountain to come back from. I mean, I know it was only 7-3, but the way the seven runs came up was pretty frustrating to our offense.
"Pretty proud, them hanging in there, chipping back in, taking the lead and hanging on to the lead," he added.
Hays (12-5 overall, 8-4 Jayhawk) took a 3-0 lead in the first against Dodge City starter Albert Baez. Andrew Heck hit a two-run double and later scored on Cam Brown's groundout.
Larks starter Cory Jordan, who hadn't allowed a run in 12 innings entering the game, didn't make it out of the second. Jordan got a double-play ball to escape a first-inning jam, but wasn't so fortunate in the second.
Jordan walked the first batter, then got two outs before he couldn't locate the strike zone.
Jordan walked the next batter, allowed an RBI single, then issued three more walks, the last two forcing home runs before being lifted.
Reliever Riley Welch walked in another run, hit a batter to bring home another run and allowed a two-run double before getting the final out.
"Our starters are going to have to give us quality starts," Leo said. "We're not getting that.
"I wasn't expecting that out of Cory; his last start was very good against El Dorado. No way did I expect that tonight," Leo added.
The Larks' hitters got Hays back in the game. The Larks scored two runs in the third and three in the fourth to take an 8-7 lead. Hays scored in the third on an error and Zak Leonhardt's RBI single. In the Hays fourth, the Larks got RBI singles from Heck and Brown and a go-ahead double from Ollie Goulder.
Hays made it 9-7 in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Brian Martin against A's reliever Jason Schmidt.
Goulder's RBI single in the sixth made it 10-7.
Dodge City (10-9, 4-8) got a run in the top of the seventh off Andy Lewton, the fifth of seven Hays pitchers on the night, but the Larks made it 11-8 on Justin Klusak's RBI double in the home half.
"Sometimes, the offense has to pick up the pitching," Leo said. "Tonight, we had to do that. We can't afford to do that, night in, night out. Our pitching has to start getting after it."
After Dodge City's seven-run second, six Larks relievers combined to allow one run over the final seven innings. Larry Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the save for Welch (1-0), who got the victory.
"The shape of our staff right now, we're just going to have to go game by game," Leo said. "We really can't think to the next day. We've got to try to win today."
The Larks and A's play again tonight in Dodge City. The Larks' probable starter is left-hander Levi Schlick (0-0).
Hays center fielder Brandon Eckerle made three fine running catches with his back to the infield in the first, second and fifth innings. "Three of those plays, when they left the bat, they were looking for sure over his head -- double, possibly triples," Leo said. "He's got to be one of the premier center fielders -- when it comes to chasing down a fly ball -- in college baseball." ...
Heck was on base four times, with three RBIs and three runs scored. "He's a great player -- does it for us on the mound, does it for us between the white lines when he plays a position," Leo said.