Though the typical offense was not in effect Friday night at Larks Park, the Hays Larks got a complete effort from D.J. Carr in a 3-2 win against the Derby Twins.
Carr fooled hitters through the course of eight innings to improve Hays to 17-2 on the season and keep the Larks in command of a lead in the Jayhawk League standings.
“He started slow. He didn’t have his off-speed, his breaking pitch and he needed it,” manager Frank Leo said. “There’s a couple guys at the top of that order that like fastballs. He got into their counts and they took advantage of it. ... Then he got that breaking pitch going and he needed to have that if he was gonna get through this game. He found it.”
Hays got on the board in the first inning thanks to a mixture of sloppy Derby fielding and the offensive prowess of Mike Mioduszewski. The Eastern Michigan product leading the Larks in nearly every hitting category put a 1-2 pitch in play and forced a Derby throwing error, allowing Jax Biggers to score.
Derby struck back in the third when right fielder Austin Bell misplayed a fly ball off the ball of Gavin Bourgeois. Braedon Barrett, the same Twin who committed the error in the first inning, plated Bourgeois with a single off Carr the next at-bat. Jonathan Davis followed with a double to score Barrett for a 2-1 lead, though Carr was able to send the next three batters down in order.
“It all comes down to, as a pitcher, controlling what you can control,” Carr said. “Not everything’s gonna be able to go your way. I just gotta stay focused, keep my team in the game and give my team the best opportunity to win.”
A Derby error allowed Connor Ross to reach base with two outs, eventually scoring on a game-tying double by Austin O’Brien. Another error on contact by Mioduszewski advanced O’Brien to third and eventually scoring on a Nate Olinger single to take a 3-2 lead.
Though Bell advanced after a walk thanks to a wild pick-off attempt by Derby pitcher Tyler Nelson, he failed to advance any further. Derby committed all four of its errors in the first four innings.
“It (defense) definitely helped tonight,” Leo said. “We misplayed one ball in right field that led to a run for them. The wind was a little tricky, but we see it in batting practice and I tell our outfielders that’s where they’ve gotta learn the wind on game day. Other than that play we did play pretty good defensively.”
Carr rolled through the Twins from that point on, eventually ending his night after eight innings. He allowed just six hits and one earned run against four strikeouts.
“I had my fastball, my (velocity) was up. I was keeping the ball low in the zone,” Carr said. “I didn’t have my curveball right away but I kinda it out later in the game and it really helped me out later on.”
Carr (4-0) got help from his defense throughout the night, including a key throw from Gangwish behind the plate in the eighth. Gangwish threw a one-hopper to shortstop Biggers, who applied the tag on Bourgeois and induced a fist pump from Leo, a manager usually reserved at third base and in his dugout.
“We had called a pitch-out ... so it gets a little more exciting when you put something on and they execute it,” Leo said. “Mikey said, ‘Good call.’ I said, ‘All I can do is call it. You’ve gotta execute it. You made a great throw.’ Jax made a great pick at second base. That was big.”
Carr added: “It’s a close ballgame ... and they have their fastest runners up and on base. It was a big out because the runner gets on second he’s in scoring position. Me and the catcher, we had talked before the game that he can run a little bit. We set up a nice litter pitch-out and he finished it.”
Chad Smith came on for the ninth and earned his fifth save of the year.
With just two stains on a hot start to the season, the Larks have yet to fall into the trap of dropping back-to-back games. Friday’s rebound from a tough loss Wednesday at Wellington especially impressed Leo given the lack of offensive output.
“This was big tonight because we didn’t play a very good game offensively. We did some things right, they made some big plays,” Leo said. “... We really didn’t barrel the ball much tonight. Pitching, defense and our closer, Smitty, keeps doing a great job.”
The Larks were set to take on the Twins in Game 2 of the three-game series Saturday night at Larks Park.