By JACK NICHOLL
Small ball and patience at the plate was what powered the Hays Larks' offense in the season-opening home doubleheader Sunday night.
The Larks had nine hits in the two games, and none of them went for extra bases. Yet they also had 11 stolen bases, 11 walks and two batters hit by pitches in the 5-0 and 3-0 wins at Larks Park.
"What I do like about this club, and I knew that in the recruiting process -- we've got guys who can run, and we can manufacture," Hays manager Frank Leo said.
Of the eight runs the Larks scored, seven came after an eventual run-scorer stole second. The one exception was when outfielder Brian Martin advanced to second on a dropped third strike in the fifth inning of Game 1.
The Larks tacked on two successful bunt hits and a couple hit-and-runs that advanced a runner to second. The team lost just one runner, on a double steal, all night.
"We've got a couple fast guys on the team who can really steal a lot of bases and some of the pitchers from the other team were a little slower to the plate," first baseman Cam Brown said. "We were able to take advantage and get some stolen bases and it makes it a lot easier on our hitters when we can go from first to second."
The power numbers were a stark difference from the 2009 version of the Larks when they averaged 2.2 extra-base hits per game. But last year the team also had less than two steals and about three walks per game.
Leo said the transition to wood bats is always an adjustment process at the beginning of the summer.
"As far as the hitting goes, early on guys getting adjusted to the wood it's always a slow process," Leo said. "I know these guys may swing it a little bit in BP in the spring, but I know their coaches also like them to stay with the aluminum."
The Larks had just one inning in which they scored more than one run because of the lack of power. In the sixth inning of Game 1 they had four straight two-out walks and a hit batsman.
And in the second game, the Larks had just two hits and three runs.
"We chased some pitches upstairs and had some easy popouts," Leo said of Denver's starting pitcher (Matt Patzner), who threw four-plus innings "He beat us away a few times. He did a good job of spotting up. ... A guy like that, he was effectively wild."
The Larks drew at least one walk in every inning but one in Game 2, and had at least one baserunner in every inning but one in Game 1.
"We did play a lot of small ball, so we manufacture runs, play good defense and we win the game," shortstop Elvin Rodriguez said.