By KLINT SPILLER
For whatever reason, Hays Larks pitcher Justin Ziegler has Dodge City's number.
Ziegler pitched seven innings and allowed just one run and five hits while striking out eight during Monday's 9-1 win against the Dodge City Athletics at Larks Park. Hays improved to 10-4 and 7-4 in the Jayhawk League.
The Athletics (6-6, 5-5) are no slouches either.
Dodge City has averaged nearly 9.5 runs a game when not playing the Larks, but Ziegler (2-1), who has pitched both games against Dodge City, has allowed just two earned runs, 12 hits and no walks and posted 15 strikeouts through 14 innings against them.
"It goes back to last summer, too," Ziegler said. "For some reason, I have had some success against Dodge. I don't know if it's luck or what."
Ziegler had just two innings where he faced more than four batters. His one run allowed came off two doubles in the fifth.
"It's all about keeping hitters off balance, no matter who you play," he said.
"Tonight, I had all three of my pitches working for strikes."
The Larks' bats weren't prolific. Hays finished with just four more hits than the A's, but they were efficient and timely, capitalizing on Dodge City mistakes.
Second baseman Zair Koeiman and right fielder Austin Darby led the Larks at the plate, hitting 2 of 3. Koeiman had an RBI and two runs scored, while Darby had two RBIs and one run scored.
"We've got a good hitting ball club," Larks coach Frank Leo said. "When you get a day like today with the wind, you've kind of got to play and manufacture. They helped us a little bit, but then we got some key things, some sac flies and groundballs."
Courtesy of an error by Dodge City, the Larks took the lead in the third, scoring three runs. Hays responded to Dodge City's one run with a run of their own in the second half of the inning.
The Larks busted the game open in the seventh with three runs, as left fielder Jon Ryan scored on an error and shortstop Claudio Valencia drove in two runs. The Larks added two more in the eighth with a pair of sacrifice flies by Darby and pinch hitter Nolan Johnson.
Leo said he was pleased with the way his team put a complete game together.
"I thought we did everything we needed to do," Leo said. "When you play these solo league games like this, you have to get up for one game. It's not a series where you try to win two out of three."
The Larks are second in the Jayhawk League standings while Dodge City is third. Liberal is leading the league with an 8-3 conference record.
However, Leo said he's not concerned about staying up to date with the league title hunt quite yet.
"At this point, I don't look at the standings," Leo said. "We just go out and try to get every win, and come late July, hopefully you look up and those games start to really mean something."
The Larks have one day of rest before playing non-league opponent Colorado Sox in a doubleheader Wednesday and a single game Thursday at Larks Park.
"We'll mix it up quite a bit," Leo said. "We've got some guys hurt who we are going to rest a little bit. Guys who haven't been getting a lot of reps are going to get reps, and our middle relief guys are going to do a lot of throwing. We are going to gear up for the weekend obviously (for a three-game series on the road at Derby)."