The Hays Larks made a strong first impression on manger Frank Leo as well as the packed crowd at Larks Park during Friday night's season opener.
The Larks opened the summer with a 12-1 run-rule win in seven innings over the Denver Cougars in front of a crowd Leo estimated at 1,200.
Hays finished with 15 hits and broke the game open with a six-run third inning and four more runs in the fourth to open up 11-run lead.
Matt Cavanagh (Texas-Arlington) went 4 for 4 with a home run to left field in the second inning, and Justin Lee (Cochise College) delivered three hits with four runs driven in.
“I like our offensive guys, our position guys,” said Leo, now in his 37th season as Larks manager. “Our pitching is a little thin right now; when we get some depth that’s going to be a strong point, too. First impression: really impressed.”
Right-hander Christian Pearcy (Rockford University) allowed a leadoff single and then a double in the first inning but surrendered just one run, going five innings to earn the win. He induced two groundball double plays.
“He’s a groundball guy, and with the look of our defense, that’s going to play in our favor,” Leo said. “We turned some nice double plays. Every ground ball that was hit, we handled it well.”
Drew Marrufo (New Mexico) tossed a scoreless fifth inning before Wyatt Divis, who had two hits including an RBI triple, came on to close out the game with a perfect seventh.
Veteran Larks include Divis, catcher Mikey Gangwash (Colorado School of Mines) and pitchers Michael Wong (UT-Arlington), Mason Myhre (Arizona Western and Ryan Ruder (Fort Hays State).
“We’ve got some veteran guys that know what the rigors of the summer are,” Leo said. “We’ve got a long way to go. It was a nice win tonight, but you need veteran guys to kind of remind them it’s a tough summer. We’ve got to keep grinding away.”
Leo said the Larks will look to fill out their roster in the coming days.
“Right now we have the smallest roster we’ve had in a long, long time,” he said. “We’re only sitting at 22 and we’ve got four guys right now involved in postseason play, so we have an 18-man roster. We need to get up to 25. We need to get three more arms to have that pitching depth we’re going to need once we get into the thick of the things.”
Leo said he was impressed with the crowd turnout.
“Great crowd, and I told our guys to be prepared to play before a big crowd,” Leo said. “We probably had twelve hundred people here tonight. Appreciate Hays Med Center, part of the University of Kansas Medical System, putting on a great event for us.”
The Larks were set to play the Cougars again at 6 p.m. Saturday night before beginning a new era with their Kansas Collegiate League Baseball opener against the Dodge City A’s at 7 p.m. on Sunday at Larks Park.
The Larks, Dodge City and Liberal Bee Jays joined the KCLB after the Jayhawk League disbanded following last season.
“You don’t really know what’s out in front of you, except for Liberal and Dodge City, we know what they’re all about,” Leo said of the KCLB. “It’s going to be exciting. It’s a new league format we’ll have to adjust to and be ready to play.”
Sunday is Military Appreciation Night. All active, reserve and retired military personnel will be honored before the game. They are asked to meet on the east side of the grandstand at 6:45 p.m.