Detmer a big bat for Larks
By NICK McQUEEN
Each summer, the obvious key to staying in the hunt at the National Baseball Congress World Series is staying in the winners' bracket.
That means taking it one game at a time, and not falling into the elimination side, where even in the new format, it's likely a team will be playing nearly every day.
When the Hays Larks begin play either Friday or Saturday in Championship Week at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita, they hope to be fortunate enough to stay away from that, plus avoid the afternoon heat.
If for no other reason, avoiding the August burn will mean having University of Chicago-Illinois catcher Tyler Detmer available as much as possible.
"Catching really wears a guy down," said Hays manager Frank Leo, whose club wrapped up the regular season Friday night with a 10-5 win against Junction City. It was the Larks' ninth straight victory.
"The offense is key for Tyler," Leo said. "He's a big hitter, and a big part of our offense."
That offense was on display in Friday's win. Detmer blasted a pair of three-run home runs to push his team lead to 10 for the year with 43 RBIs. His 10 homers ties him with Doug Dreher (1999) for the seventh most in a season. He is nine RBIs short of climbing into the Larks' all-time top five.
Having Detmer in the lineup in Wichita will be key.
"We have to stay away from the afternoon games down there, because that also wears a guy down," Leo said. "If we can stay in the evening, we can kind of ride him as long as we can."
Even when North Iowa Area CC catcher Joe Hallock is behind the plate, Detmer has been in the outfield. He is second behind Tyler Leffler in games played. Leffler has started 40 games, while Detmer has started 37.
Balisterri productive so far
Through the summer, the Larks lost 10 guys for the season.
Two weeks ago, it was to the point where backups were limited in the field, so Leo added Thomas Clay, a Wichita native who had played in the past for Jayhawk League member El Dorado.
He also added Brooks Balisterri, a Meridian Community College sophomore headed for Arkansas State.
Balisterri has been impressive since arriving four games ago.
"It gives us the depth, and gives us a chance to look at him for next summer," Leo said. "He is a baseball kid. I like the way he grinds it out, and plays the game."
Balisterri is hitting .438 in four games with six runs scored, three doubles and two RBIs. He also has played big on defense, making several athletic grabs at third base.
On July 6, the Hays Larks fell to the Liberal Bee Jays on the road, a Liberal win that capped a two-game sweep.
Hays was sitting just above .500 in league play and was beat up with injury.
The Larks, though, came back to Larks Park that Tuesday and Wednesday, and were able to capture back-to-back wins against the same Liberal club.
It was then Leo said things started to turn around.
"We started getting a little healthy," Leo said. "I think that was key. The last game down there was a tough loss."
The July 8 and 9 series proved key. The Larks closed the regular season winning 13 of their last 15 games, including a series sweep of the Derby Twins last weekend that wrapped up second place in the Jayhawk League, the 13th top-two finish in the league since 2001. The only season in that span Hays did not finish second or win the league was in 2010, when the Larks finished third. It was only the second season in Leo's tenure the Larks did not participate in the World Series.