WICHITA — The Pool B driver’s seat was up for grabs when the Hays Larks and Cheney Diamond Dawgs squared off in Tuesday’s featured game at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The Diamond Dawgs left the park in a position of power, as a pair of early homers led to an 7-3 win.
All that was left for Frank Leo to do post-game was tip his cap to the victors.
“That’s a good club. They beat us in every facet of the game,” Leo said. “(It) was nothing we did defensively. I thought they barrelled pretty good pitches on our part.”
The loss set up a win-and-you’re-in game against Seattle on Thursday.
Chandler Coates got the start for the Larks and gave up a double and a single to fall behind 1-0 in the first. A two-run homer from Daniel Richardson made it 3-0 in the second. It was the first of two dingers that helped Tuesday’s visitors jump out on the front foot.
The only thing Leo noticed Coates could’ve done better is command his changeup and breaking balls, as the Diamond Dawgs finished the game with six extra-base hits.
“They hit his fastballs too much,” Leo said. “You gotta have offspeed (stuff) against hitters like that. I was impressed they way they swung the bat. They barreled a lot of balls.”
Hays third baseman Alex Weiss got the Larks on the board in the bottom half of the third. After Clayton Rasbeary reached on an infield single, Weiss brought him in with a two-out double. The inning ended when Weiss tried to leg out a triple but was called out by the umpire on a close play.
Coates rebounded with consecutive scoreless innings before a solo homer from Jackson Glenn and a productive groundout stretched the Diamond Dawgs’ lead to 5-1 in the fifth.
The Larks used infield singles from Colin Simpson and Nick Jones in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively, to make it 5-3 to start the seventh.
That was as much offense as the Larks could muster. Cheney’s Austin Gehle went 5.2 innings, giving up seven hits and three earned runs. He struck out five and appeared to get stronger as the outing went.
“Early in the game, he didn’t show much velocity. He was pretty soft,” Leo said. “Then he changed his tempo as the game went on. I didn’t think we adjusted. We had a few chances to make a little noise, and he kept shutting us down.”
Coates made way for Peyton Battenfield after giving up a leadoff double in the sixth. The New Mexico product exited having allowed nine hits and five earned runs. He did not strike out a batter and issued a pair of walks.
The Diamond Dawgs added insurance runs in the seventh and ninth innings, while the Larks’ bats went quiet.
Cheney owned a 12-8 advantage in hits with the Larks committing the game’s only error.
Tresten Kennard went 4 for 5 for the Diamond Dawgs and scored a pair of runs.
Clayton Rasbeary and Jacob Boston were the only Larks with multi-hit games.
The first four batters in the Larks’ lineup combined to go 1 for 14 in the loss.
The Larks will need to beat the Seattle Studs in their final game of pool play Thursday to have a chance to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals. The Studs moved to 1-1 with a seven-inning win over San Antonio earlier Tuesday.
The Studs blew an early lead against the Diamond Dawgs in their opener, and Leo expects both teams to enter the decisive game with an edge.
“They’re livid about that, and they’re going to want to come back and win, and so do we.
It’s going to be a good a ballgame,” Leo said.
“Don’t count our guys out yet.”
A time for Thursday's game was not announced as of Tuesday night.