By CONOR NICHOLL
After Monday night's victory against Derby, the Hays Larks stood in second place in the Jayhawk League with a 19-14 record. They still had a chance to win the league as Haysville, then 19-12, had two games left against El Dorado.
But El Dorado, citing injuries and a low roster, recently canceled its final three games, according to the Broncos' team web site. Haysville gains two victories with the forfeits, including one Tuesday night, and will finish the season 21-12. The Heat will win the Jayhawk League for the second straight season.
Derby also picked up a win to finish league play at 19-15. Hays has one game left, a 7 p.m. home contest against Dodge City today at Larks Park. If the Larks win, they will clinch second place in the final standings.
Burchett effective closer
Right-hander Michael Burchett wasn't originally supposed to pitch for Hays. Larks manager Frank Leo thought he had Stefan Lopez from Southern Louisiana to close games, but Lopez was hurt near the end of the spring season. Leo added Burchett, who was 4-1 with a 2.27 earned-run average and seven saves for Sam Houston State.
Burchett had played for Seth Fortenberry, a former Lark who now coaches at Sam Houston State. He told Leo that Burchett was available.
This summer, Burchett is 0-1 with a 1.03 ERA in a team-high 22 games (no other Lark has thrown in more than 14). His 10 saves rank second all-time in a single season in program history, trailing only Matt McMunn, who saved 14 games in 2001.
"As a fielder, a lot of times I will kind of guess where the pitch is going to be," second baseman Sean Wilson said. "I'll take a few steps one way or another, but sometimes his slider will move three inches, sometimes it will move a foot. Sometimes I kind of catch myself swaying back and forth. But at the same time, they don't usually make hard contact off him."
On Monday, Burchett came in for a rare four-out save. He entered the eighth inning with two on and two out, but ended the threat with a strikeout.
"He did that in college," Leo said. "He was advertised. He can do that in those key situations. He is a competitor. You have got to want to be in those situations. You have got to have thick skin. That's not an easy thing to do. When you come in for a save, the game is on the line. It's not the seventh inning where we have got a couple innings to make something happen."
Ryan sees power boost
For NCAA Division I University of Illinois-Chicago in the spring, outfielder Jon Ryan hit .238 with no homers and 20 RBIs in 52 games. But he has displayed impressive power in the summer for Hays. The 6-foot, 190-pound left-handed hitter carries a .325 average with nine homers and 37 RBIs, both team highs.
"I couldn't believe it, because you see all of the guys will metal bats hit the ball hard and when you see a guy with a wood bat hit like that, it kind of opens up your eyes," Wilson said. "It's fun for me just when I am out there at second (base) just to watch the ball go over the fence time and time again. It's pretty cool."