The summer success of the Hays Larks sometimes depends on how fast it takes the team to gel.
Less than a week into the season, finding a chemistry hasn't been an issue for the Larks, who continued their stellar start with a 4-3 win over the Great Bend Bat Cats on Thursday night at Larks Park.
Hays used a sharp relief outing from Toby Scoles and a clutch eighth-inning double from Matt Munoz to improve to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the Jayhawk League.
"Man, they're coming together as a team," 36th-year Larks manager Frank Leo said. "They're pulling for each other and they're having fun doing it. That's a big part of our summer success."
Munoz, an outfielder from Abilene Christian, said it didn't take long for the Larks to build a rapport.
"The team chemistry kind of came natural," he said. "We just love the fans and the environment here is amazing. We're just really having a great time here."
Hays overcame a shaky start from Walter Pennington, who fought control issues on the mound, allowing three runs while surrendering eight walks and four hits in 4 1/3 innings. Scoles, a teammate of Pennington's at Colorado School of Mines, got the Larks out a jam in the fifth and continued to cruise in 3 2/3 scoreless innings.
"Toby Scoles, coming into the situation he did and minimizing it — picking a guy off first base and throwing up zeros — that's really promising," Leo said. "That's what you have to have out of the bullpen. Walter Pennington didn't have his best stuff, but that's why we have a deep pitching staff. We have someone that can come in there and keep them at bay, and Toby did that. Tremendous job."
With the game tied at 3 in the bottom of the eighth, John Rensel led off with a single, moved to second on Easton Kirk's sacrifice bunt and scored on Munoz's one-out double to center.
"They were throwing away to me the whole game," Munoz said. "I was just looking for a ball that was middle away that I could drive to left center.
"He got aggressive early in the count," Leo added. "I told him to try and be a little more aggressive. He's been up in some RBI situations before for us. He's had some big hits and I thought he got aggressive on that first pitch."
Great Bend jumped out in front in the second inning on a two-run home run from Jack Bordovsky. The Larks tied it up after two runs in the fourth, with Munoz driving in Jared Martin on a ground out and Kirk scoring off a Great Bend throwing error.
The Bat Cats went back in front with a run in the top of the fifth but Hays answered with a run in the bottom of the frame after Great Bend starter Easton Smith was called for a balk.
Smith, an Ellis product, gave up three runs in five innings, earning a no-decision.
Fabian Munoz closed out the game for the Larks with a perfect ninth to record the save.
"Toby was lights-out and Fabian just didn't even give them a chance," Munoz said. "It was amazing."
The Larks will continue a four-game home stand against El Dorado at 7 p.m Friday.