By AUSTIN COLBERT
When opportunity knocks, Hays Larks manager Frank Leo expects his team to answer. But on Friday against El Dorado in the first of a three-game Jayhawk League series at Larks Park, the only player to step up for Hays was right fielder Aaron Cornell.
It was his solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning that tied the game at 2 and sent it to extra innings. And it was his leadoff triple to open the bottom of the 10th, the Larks trailing by a run, that made it seem likely it would be his run again that would tie the game.
Only this never happened, and the Larks (12-9, 8-9 Jayhawk League) fell, 3-2, to El Dorado (9-10, 6-10).
"In the position we are in, you can't afford to let one slip. You got a chance to win one you got to win it," Leo said. "You got a veteran up there and he gets a leadoff triple -- that should fire up the rest of the club to do something."
Wichita State freshman center fielder Michael Burns followed Cornell's triple by striking out. Next was catcher Ty Detmer, who flew out to left field. Cornell decided to tag on Detmer's pop up, but was thrown out at home after a laser from El Dorado left fielder Dylin Mucha.
"Michael Burns' at-bat was the key one. That's a key at-bat. Tough to squeeze off a side-arm pitcher like that -- that ball has run on it. We had to bank on him just putting the ball in play," Leo said.
"That was a big at-bat. He gets that run home there it takes the monkey off everybody else's back. Aaron Cornell is going to try and do everything he can to win. He is so competitive. It was a tough chance to try and score on that. He is banking on maybe a bad throw because that was awful shallow. The kid made a good throw and the ballgame's over."
Spencer Applebach (0-1), a sophomore from Chandler Gilbert Community College, took the loss for Hays in his third appearance this summer. He only pitched through one out in the 10th inning, a disastrous four at-bats that resulted in the eventual game-winning run by El Dorado, before being replaced by DJ Carr.
Kansas State freshman Jake Fromson got the start for the Larks, pitching the first 6.0 innings while allowing four hits and two runs, one earned. Ethan Landon pitched innings seven through nine, holding El Dorado to two hits and no runs.
The game was scoreless through three then El Dorado got its first run in the top of the fourth, a run Hays matched in the bottom half of the inning after a Bronco throwing error allowed Evan Gruener to score. The Broncos took a 2-1 lead in the sixth, Cornell's solo shot in the seventh tying it and forcing the extra inning.
Cornell, a fourth-year Lark and senior from Oklahoma State, finished 2 for 4 with one run and one RBI.
"Outside of Applebach, we pitched it good," Leo said. "We did some good things but when you play a close ball game like that, everything's got to be good. And it wasn't."
The Larks and El Dorado were set to play Game 2 Saturday night. Game 3 of the series is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at Larks Park, which is also Military Appreciation Night.