By NICK McQUEEN
Every once in a while in the hot summer stretch of the Jayhawk League, it helps the Hays Larks to have a night where the team can just go out on the field and loosen up.
Thursday was that night for the 2013 club. And everyone got in on the action.
Hays went to work on a depleted pitching staff for the Boulder Collegians and tallied 19 runs on 16 hits through seven innings in a shutout victory to move to 19-3.
Everyone in the Larks' lineup either got at least one hit or scored a run, and Hays capped a two-game series with the Collegians by forcing its visitors to end the game early.
"You need one of those," Larks manager Frank Leo said. "We don't have a lot of guys on the bench to throw out there, so we had to keep our guys out there.
"They stayed focused," Leo added. "We have a day off (today), which is good to have after a day like this, with a big weekend series coming up."
Third-year Lark Mackenzie Handel was one of six Larks with at least two hits, and was one of three to record a two-run home run. He finished 2 for 5, and drove in four runs, the other two on a two-run double in the sixth.
Handel had been in a slump recently, but took four days off in last weekend's Derby series to attend a wedding. In the last three games, Handel has recorded three hits and driven in six runs.
"It's been kind of a tough season so far (for me)," Handel said. "I'll start heating up."
Top to bottom, every Lark heated up in some form Thursday. Including assistant coach Dustin Washburn, who is still batting 1.000 the last two seasons in five plate appearances. Washburn had two doubles and two RBIs and played first base the final two innings.
"That's how baseball goes sometimes," Handel said. "You have to roll with the punches."
The Larks were the ones who dealt all the blows.
Desmond Roberts broke a scoreless tie against the Collegians' Mitch Kottas with a two-run home run in the second inning. Two batters later, Brent Gillespie matched the feat with his first bomb of the year.
"They keep getting their work in, and that's important," Leo said. "They had a good attitude tonight. It wasn't Jayhawk League caliber, but still we have to get our work in with a big series coming up."
Handel then collected Hays' homer No. 3 in the third, a two-run shot to right center field, part of a four-run inning that put the Larks up 8-0.
"Starting to relax a little bit," said Handel, a Chandler, Ariz. native by way of Stephen F. Austin College. "It was great to go home, and mentally, just feel a lot better."
Jake Placzek, who also missed last weekend's series, picked up right where he left off this week. Thursday, he finished 4 for 4 with a walk, three runs scored and two driven in.
Brett Lang also recorded two hits and drove in and scored a pair of runs and Roberts finished 2 for 3, and scored three runs.
The game got out of hand when Hays plated seven runs in the fourth, one on a bases-loaded walk and another on a wild pitch.
Meanwhile, Logan DeRosier (1-0) earned his first decision. He pitched five innings, allowing two hits and no runs. Former Thomas More Prep-Marian standout and current Fort Hays State University Tiger Nick Hammeke had one of the hits in the second. Nick Goza pitched the final two innings.
Leo was quick to make sure his team remained focused on the task ahead -- this weekend's three-game series with Wellington at Larks Park. The first game is at 7 p.m. Saturday with Hays (13-3) leading the way with a 4.5 game cushion.
"Every night's a challenge," Leo said. "It doesn't matter. We swept (the Heat) down there, but we just have to keep playing good baseball.
"They might have changed personnel a little bit," Leo added.
"We just have to keep doing the things we've been doing. We're executing in all facets, and we're pitching it well."
Jason Zgardowski (3-0, 1.80 ERA), Colin Hightower (2-0, 2.13) and Chandler Hawkins (4-0, 2.45) are due up to start the Saturday, Sunday, Monday series. Wellington is 12-9 overall and 8-9 in a third-place tie in the league behind El Dorado. Hays is on a four-game winning streak.
"Those guys are going to give us a chance to win, and we've got a rested bullpen," Leo said. "We just have to stay healthy and do the things we're doing. We don't need to do anything extra at this point."
Saturday's game is part of Larkstoberfest/Old-Timers' Night at Larks Park. Former Larks are invited to attend the game and get a T-shirt. Polka music will be provided by Joe Doleza and brats, bierocks, noodles and kuchen will be available starting at 5:30 p.m.