By NICK McQUEEN
It might still be a little too early to tell.
But, if Friday night's performance against Jayhawk League newcomer Haysville by Hays reliever Mark Phillips is any indication, then the Larks could have found a critical part while competing in one of the best summer-collegiate conferences.
Phillips, a Gonzaga sophomore, picked up his second save of the season pitching 11βΡ3 innings of relief as the Larks held on for a 6-5 win, their first Jayhawk victory of the young season.
The two teams were to play again Saturday night in Game 2 of the series, and are scheduled to wrap it up with a 7 p.m. game today at Larks Park.
"This league every night out it's going to be a tough ball game," Larks manager Frank Leo said. "Its going to come down to late innings, and the team that gets it done in the late innings is going to win the ball game."
Phillips did just that for the Larks, saving the win for right-hander Andrew Heck, who picked up his second victory of the season.
Phillips came on with one out and runners at the corners in the eighth, and got Haysville's Jordan Price to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
"Outstanding job by Mark Phillips tonight. He came in in a pressure situation and got the job done," Leo said. "That's what you have to have. You have to have the end of that game taken care of and Mark did a great job tonight doing that."
Phillips, who was 2-4 with a 6.90 earned-run average in 27 appearances this spring for Gonzaga, then worked what appeared to be a 1-2-3 ninth.
Heat designated hitter Tim Purdin appeared to go around on a check swing but the home plate umpire said he checked in time. Purdin then sent a liner down the left-field line for a single. Phillips got Clint Stroud to fly out down the right-field foul line as Larks right fielder Jason Klusak made a sliding catch into the wall in foul territory to end the game.
"It's a long way to go (this summer), but the signs are good now that he can handle the pressure," Leo said of Phillips. "He comes in and gets the double play, and I thought he had a 1-2-3 ninth, but gave up the hit, but he didn't lose his composure. He stayed poised and got the job done."
Heck, in his second start of the season, made just two bad pitches, but both led to runs early as Haysville (3-3 overall, 1-2 Jayhawk) took a 3-2 lead on a two-run homer by K.C. Pfister in the fifth. Heck had a wild pitch on a strikeout that put Justin Miller on base, then Pfister followed with the round-tripper.
"That's typical Andrew. The wild pitch, he's playing with a cutter a little bit, and our catchers don't know it's a cutter when they call the fastball," Leo said. "We'll have to fix that. That had tremendous movement. The home run -- those things happen."
Hays (3-1, 1-1) took back the lead in the fifth. Bradley sophomore Rob Elliot made his Larks' debut, collecting his second double of the game to drive in Brian Martin to tie it, then Elliott scored on a throwing error by the Heat catcher to regain the lead. In his first game of the summer, Elliot finished 2-for-4 with two doubles, a run scored, an RBI, and was hit by a pitch.
Hays managed two more runs in the sixth to build a cushion, one on an RBI triple by Brandon Eckerle.
Haysville battled back with a run in the seventh off Larks reliever Andy Lewton, then Greg Owens led off the eighth with a solo homer off Riley Welch before Phillips entered the game.
Heck worked six innings for the win, giving up eight hits and three runs (two earned) with three strikeouts. He moved to 2-0 on the season with a 1.80 ERA. ... Bradley junior Patrick Cooper, one of the Larks' top pitchers is negotiating with the Detroit Tigers after being drafted in the 14th round earlier in the week. Cooper is 1-1 for the Larks with a 4.76 ERA. ... Martin finished 3-for-5 in the Larks' leadoff spot, scoring three runs. He is hitting .538 in four games with a team-high eight runs scored.