Each year, the Hays Larks are tasked with building a team from scratch and hoping it gels fast enough to produce a successful summer.
That process came together seamlessly for the 2018 version of the Larks during a dominant regular season.
The Larks won 24 of their first 29 games including a nine-game winning streak in the middle of summer en route to capturing the Jayhawk League title with a 26-9 league record.
Their run ended abruptly in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita this week, with the Larks bowing out after going 1-2 in pool play and ending the summer 35-12. But manager Frank Leo was proud of the overall body of work the Larks accomplished this season.
“It was a special team,” Leo said after his 36th season at the helm of the Larks. “I hope our fans realize how hard it is to put a team together every year. It gets tougher each year with what coaches want to send out. You’ve got to get after it and do your homework and do your due diligence.
“We’ll try to enjoy what this ball club brought to Hays, brought to the Larks’ program.”
The Larks went through the regular season without hitting a skid, something Leo attributed to the team’s depth.
Easton Kirk, from Wallace State (Ala.) Community College, was the top threat at the plate for the Larks, hitting .410 with six home runs and a team-high 42 runs driven in. Abilene Christian’s Ryne Randle hit .372 on the season and led the team with 17 doubles, while Wyatt Divis, who is headed to UT-Arlington, posted a .340 average and drew a team-high 49 walks.
Michael Wong (Pima Junior College in Arizona), Fabian Muniz (Arizona Western) and Tyler Blomster (Colorado School of Mines) were the Larks’ top starters on the mound. Wong went 4-1 with a 2.77 ERA, Muniz was 5-2 with a 2.96 ERA while Blomster was 5-2 with a 3.28 ERA.
The Larks opened the NBC World Series with a 7-2 win over Clarinda (Iowa) but then fell 6-5 to the Wellington Heat before exiting the tournament with a 9-6 loss to the San Diego Stars this past Tuesday.
“Our final words to them was, ‘Just remember, you’re a Lark, take that with you, because you represented the Larks very well this summer. You’re always going to be a Lark. Take that back to your programs,’ “ Leo said. “Hopefully we helped them grow this summer.”
Leo said it won’t be long before the Larks start building for next year’s team.
“It’ll be here before you know it,” Leo said. “We’ll hit the recruiting trail in the middle of September and start working on another campaign.”