Larks manager likes late-inning options
By NICK McQUEEN
Son of Loren McQueen
In a combined 24 innings, the trio of DJ Carr, David Owen and Dalton Viner have yet to allow an earned run. Owen and Carr, the top save options out of the Hays Larks' bullpen, have yet to allow a run at all.
Having so many go-to options is a conundrum Larks 33rd-year manager Frank Leo likes to think about at this point in the season. Especially as the grind in the Jayhawk League continues.
In the last two contests heading into Saturday night's game against Wellington, Owen and Carr earned their first saves of the season.
"When one can't go, the other one can be ready to go," Leo said of Owen and Carr. "Dalton Viner is another power arm.
"He's going to be another good weapon for us."
Carr pitched three scoreless innings in Friday's 12-3 win against Wellington, when the Larks scored 10 runs in the final three innings to earn the rout. Carr picked up his first save. He surrendered two hits with five strikeouts.
On Thursday, Owen earned his first save when he pitched a scoreless ninth, working around two walks in a 6-5 win against Dodge City. Carr also pitched part of a scoreless eighth with Alex Frey.
Entering Saturday, Carr, a freshman from Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) Community College, had pitched 8.1 innings in five appearances.
He had given up six hits with 11 strikeouts to three walks. Owen, from Arkansas State University, had pitched seven innings, giving up five hits with seven strikeouts to three walks.
Viner, from Eastern Okla. Community College, had allowed five runs (none earned) on seven hits in 8.2 innnings with 14 strikeouts with six walks and seven hits.
As a staff, the Larks had averaged nearly one strikeout per inning in the hot start entering Saturday. Hays had 93 strikeouts from 10 pitchers. Starter Chandler Hawkins, the Larks' third in the rotation right now, had 21 strikeouts in 14 innings.
Larks open lead
The Jayhawk League season is long, but the Larks esatblished themselves as the early leaders. Friday night's win gave Hays (11-1 overall, 7-1 JL) a 2-game lead on the field and was the Larks' eighth straight victory.
After Hays and Wellington wrap up their three-game series today, Hays is at home Tuesday and Wedensday before going back on the road Friday for a three-game series at Derby. From now until the end of June, Hays is at home eight of 11 games.
"Jayhawk League is a grind," Leo said. "July is important and you have to keep your ground in June.
"I wouldn't want to be the other way around, so we'll take these wins and ride it as long as we can."
Hays won the league last summer, the first since 2008, and ended up with their first third-place finish at the National Baseball Congress World Series.
"You're going to lose another game in the league, or two or three at some point," Leo said. "It's just that tough of a schedule."
Newcomer could see mound
Leo said Thursday newcomer Colin Hightowner, a right-hander from Eastern Okla. CC, could see his first start tonight in the series finale with Wellington. Hightower, a right-hander, joined the team earlier this week.