By KLINT SPILLER
Hays Larks pitcher Justin Ziegler is making the best of his opportunity to be a starter.
In Ziegler's first start for the Larks on June 28, he pitched seven shutout seven innings and allowed one hit. His second start on Friday wasn't quite as sterling, but it was still solid.
Ziegler bested the El Dorado Broncos 5-3 in Jayhawk League action at Larks Park to move to 2-0 for the season.
Ziegler shut the Broncos out in seven of his eight innings pitched. The right-hander allowed six hits and three earned runs, and three of those hits and runs were in the fourth inning.
"Justin Ziegler once again was a bulldog for us," Hays manager Frank Leo said. "He took us deep into the game. ... He had a little hiccup there when they put up the 3-spot, but he (got tough) and kept throwing down zeroes."
With Hays (17-11 overall, 11-9 Jayhawk) short on starters, Ziegler is making the most of his opportunities. Against El Dorado, he struck out three and walked three.
"It was a little different from the first start," Ziegler said. "My stuff was a little different. It wasn't quite as good. I definitely got a lot more ground balls and let my fielders do a lot more this time around."
Closer Michael Burchett pitched the ninth for his fourth save.
"We didn't have to use a whole lot of bullpen," Leo said.
Offensively, the top of the batting order carried the Larks.
Outfielder Cody Gougler and designated hitter Jon Ryan hit back-to-back home runs over the right field wall in the third inning.
Outfielder MacKenzie Handel and third baseman Kelton Rule each had an RBI.
The Larks could have scored even more, but stranded eight runners on base.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Larks had the bases loaded with one out after three consecutive walks, but they were unable to take advantage.
"You always want to try and cash in and go into that ninth inning with as much as you can," Leo said. "We got a little too anxious, and their guy made some good pitches, too.
"Sometimes, hitting looks easier than it really is. It is a tough thing to do, and we got enough runs to win tonight, and that was what is most important."
After losing six of eight league games, the Larks have started to build momentum, winning their second Jayhawk game in a row.
"We are trying," Ziegler said. "We still need some things to fall our way. We are not playing the best baseball that we are capable of. ... We just have to keep working on the little things."
Leo said his team needs to play with a sense of urgency.
"You can't wait until tomorrow," Leo said. "We are into July. Every day, we have to be ready to go. Every game that we waste in July will be a tough game to make up."
After playing Saturday night, the Larks and Broncos finish their three-game series today with a 7 p.m. game at Larks Park.