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Larks collect home shutout versus Newton

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Were it much later in the season, there would be reason for concern regarding the Hays Larks use of four relief pitchers on Tuesday against the Newton Rebels at Larks Park.

But worry not as it's barely June and the Larks have only played three games -- all non-league -- a time manager Frank Leo uses to see what he has at his disposal.

"We are piecing things together tonight to get ready for conference play," Leo said. "The guys who threw tonight are going to be bullpen guys and we needed to get them some work and we needed to see them. And we are encouraged with what we saw."

Connor Sjolander, Derek Birginske, Ethan Landon and Tyler Kapp combined to allow only three hits in the Larks' 6-0 win over Newton on Tuesday. The win moves Hays to 3-0 following its 4-0, 4-3 doubleheader sweep of the Colorado Sox in their season openers on Saturday.

Sjolander (1-0), a junior right-hander from Emporia State University, got the start and the win against Newton (1-3), going four innings while giving up one hit with one strikeout and no walks. Birginske went two innings with one hit and two strikeouts, Landon one inning with no hits and two strikeouts, and Kapp two innings with one hit and four strikeouts.

The pitchers' night was made easier because of a solid offensive outing by the Larks, who had eight hits and capitalized on four Rebel errors, although they did leave 11 runners on base.

"I'm seeing some competitive at-bats. I'm seeing guys that are taking the count deep and still being very competitive with two strikes. That's a good sign," Leo said. "I'm very encouraged with that part of it and I like our left-right handed mix we have. It's a good mix of left-hand hitters, right-hand hitters."

The Larks got on the board in the bottom of the second inning with two runs. Nate Olinger opened the inning with a double before stealing third base, which was followed by another double from Ty Detmer to score Olinger. A throwing error by the pitcher allowed Detmer to score from third for the other run.

The Larks added another run in the bottom of the fifth inning, an unearned run by Detmer on a Rebel throwing error.

The game was put out of reach in the bottom of the seventh when the Larks tacked on their final three runs of the game. Detmer, Tanner DeVinny and Kevin Czarnecki each recorded an RBI-single to get the runs home.

"You know, we aren't at full strength. We are still a little thin. But what the guys have shown us so far is pretty encouraging," Leo said.

"We have a little bit of team speed and defense looks good. You know, it's early. I'm hoping I'm saying the same thing after 10 ballgames. And I think I will be because these guys seem like a good bunch that are coming together quickly."

Detmer, a University of Chicago-Illinois junior, led the Larks' offense, going 3 for 4 with three runs and two RBI.

Cole Crawford took the loss for Newton, giving up two hits and two runs (one earned) in 3.0 innings. The Newton roster includes three Fort Hays State University players in Nick Hammeke, Chandler Rule and Clayton Basgall.

The Larks will open Jayhawk League action at 7 p.m. tonight in Dodge City.

"It's all on the road and that's important in the Jayhawk League," Leo said of their first four conference games, which includes a three-game series at El Dorado this weekend. "I thought our focus stayed good tonight. Even though it was non-league and we open up league play (tonight), I thought we beared down when we had to."