By NICK McQUEEN
Three games into the season, and three wins for the Hays Larks.
So far, Hays 33rd-year manager Frank Leo likes what he sees.
The toughest tests, though, for his 2013 squad lie in the week ahead, and if the coach still has the same thoughts by week's end, his club could be a tough one this summer.
Through three team-pitched games, a series that ended with a 9-3 win against the Colorado Sox on Sunday night at Larks Park, Leo got a chance to see 10 different arms, and a versatile offense that collected 33 hits in a 3-0 start.
"I like what I see," Leo said. "We might have a little more team speed than what I thought, and we have some pretty good options out of the bullpen.
"We still have to see some more, but preliminary looks, I really like what we see," he added.
In Sunday's series finale, the Larks collected nine hits, and broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning. Newcomer Taylor Peterson, a junior from University of North Dakota, collected his fifth hit as a Lark when he connected on a one-out 1-0 pitch, and sent it over the right-center field fence for his team-leading fifth and sixth RBIs of the season. The hit gave the Larks the lead for good, but they plated five more runs to seal the deal.
Peterson caught the second game Saturday and was the designated hitter in the other two games of the series.
"He's got a great mind for the game and a good feel for it," Leo said of Peterson, who batted .295 for UND this spring in 48 games. "And, he has a lot of energy -- a great team player so far."
Peterson also had an RBI groundout in the third inning that scored the Larks' first run after they fell into a 2-0 hole with starter Jeff Chesnutt.
Alex Frey, a left-hander from Youngstown State (Ohio) University, picked up the win in three innings of relief.
Frey allowed one run (earned) on one hit with four walks and a strikeout. DJ Carr, a right-hander from Chandler Gilbert (Ariz.) Community College, pitched the final three innings. He allowed two hits with two walks, and struck out four. Two of his strikeouts came with the bases loaded in the ninth inning and no outs.
"That's what we needed to do. We saw everyone," Leo said of the weekend. "We'll keep learning. I liked what I saw out of DJ Carr and David Owen (Saturday) at the end of the games. DJ has a pretty good breaking pitch."
Nick Goza, the only pitcher with any previous Larks' experience, will get the ball when Hays plays at 7 p.m. today in Liberal to open Jayhawk League play. Chandler Hawkins, a left-hander from Arkansas State University, will get the nod in the second game Tuesday.
Offensively, Hays got a good weekend from its three returners to the lineup. In Sunday's series finale, Mackenzie Handel had a hit and drove in two runs, while Elvin Rodriguez scored his team-leading sixth run. Zair Koeiman had the day off Sunday, but scored six runs through two games Saturday, and had a grand slam to break a scoreless tie in the nightcap of the doubleheader.
"We have a good mix," Leo said. "This week will tell a lot. We have some big games coming up.
"By next Sunday night, if I'm seeing the same things, we're going to have a pretty good ball club."
The Larks, the defending Jayhawk League champions, were 5-3 against Liberal last season and finished 3-1 in games played at Liberal.
The Larks are awaiting the arrival of four players. A catcher last season, Brett Lang still is making his way to Hays. Lang, who batted .312 for the Larks last summer, just wrapped up his redshirt freshman season with University of North Carolina-Charlotte. He played in 51 games this spring, hitting .289. Aaron Cornell, who will be a third-year Lark, and Randy McCurry just wrapped up play Sunday with Oklahoma State University in the NCAA Division I regional in Kentucky. The Cowboys lost 12-3 to Louisville. Right-handed pitcher Jason Zgardowksi, a sophomore from Midland Community College in Texas is expected to make his way to Hays as well. ... In Sunday's game, assistant coach Dustin Washburn, a former Thomas More Prep-Marian, Fort Hays State University and Larks player, took a swing in the eighth inning. He connected for an RBI single to score the Larks' eighth run. In two seasons, Washburn has made three appearances and has connected all three times.