By RANDY GONZALES
With their third straight win, the Hays Larks climbed into at least a share of second place in the Jayhawk League standings.
Hays defeated Derby 6-4 on Saturday night at Larks Park to improve to 22-14 overall, 15-13 in the Jayhawk. Derby (22-17) dropped to 15-14 in the league race, a half-game back.
Liberal (24-17) also was 15-13 going into Saturday night's home game against Dodge City. El Dorado (32-8 overall, 21-8 Jayhawk) has clinched the league title.
Larks manager Frank Leo has heard different scenarios from the National Baseball Congress on what it would take for Hays to qualify for the World Series next month.
"They always like to keep things secret down there," Leo said of the NBC.
With that being the case, all the Larks can do is win, sew up second place and guarantee a berth in the season finale in Wichita. El Dorado has already earned an automatic berth after wining the Midwest Regional title Friday.
"What we're concerned about is getting to the World Series," Leo said. "If we win out, we have a shot at second place."
Hays, which has won the first three games, will go for the series sweep at 7 tonight at Larks Park. Right-hander Andrew Heck (4-0) is the probable starter for the Larks.
After tonight's game, Hays is at home Monday to play the Alaska Goldpanners, then will play Dodge City, last in the Jayhawk, at home Tuesday.
The Larks will play Junction City at home Wednesday in non-league action before traveling to Dodge City Thursday for a makeup game to end the regular season.
Hays keeps winning while short on players.
"I'm proud of the ball club, what we're doing with a limited roster," Leo said.
The Larks made the most of their scoring opportunities in Saturday's win. Hays used a three-run first inning, then let Derby tie it with single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth.
But the Larks scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to regain the lead.
"We're scrappers, the kind of ball club I like," Leo said.
Right-hander Eddie Carl worked six innings for the win. Carl (4-4) allowed three runs on six hits, with one walk and seven strikeouts.
Grant Gillespie pitched a scoreless seventh, but Andy Lewton allowed a solo homer in the eighth by Mark Haddow to allow the Twins to get within 6-4.
Left-hander Eric Rose pitched the ninth for his sixth save, and second in as many nights.
"As long as Rose is rested ... Rose is doing a great job out of the (bullpen)," Leo said. "Guys are doing a great job setting it up for Rose."
Derby starter Matt Kretchmer (2-4) was hurt by a throwing error to allow one first-inning run, then gave up a two-run single to Rick Devereaux to make it 3-0.
The Twins got an RBI double in the fourth by Haddow, a run-scoring single in the fifth from Kevin Hall and tied it in the sixth on a homer by Brett Douglas.
Hays bounced back, scoring three times in the bottom of the sixth. Codi Harshman hit a two-run single to make it 5-3, and Hays added a run on an error.
"Rick Devereaux had a big hit again today," Leo said. "Codi Harshman had a big hit with two strikes."
Taking advantage of runners on base has been key to the Larks' success against Derby.
"We're opportunistic on offense," Leo said. "We're getting better offensively, more opportunistic, taking advantage of mistakes."
The time of game was 2 hours, 12 minutes ... Heck has the best earned-run average on the team at 1.89 ... Larks' leadoff man Brandon Eckerle went 0-for-4 to see his batting average drop to .415 on the season ... Two Larks combined to make a spectacular play to end the top of the eighth inning. Douglas hit a fly ball into shallow left field, with Larks left fielder Joe Huwer charging in for the ball and Larks shortstop Sean Wilson racing into the outfield for it. Huwer made a headlong dive, with the ball hitting his glove, then the force of Huwer's hitting the grass popped the ball high into the air, with Wilson making a diving catch. Derby manager Jason Santangelo argued the call between innings, with Douglas standing by the pitcher's mound, hoping for a reversal. The call stood after the umpires conferred.