The Hays Larks kept their division title hopes alive with a 7-4 win over Dodge City in Tuesday night's regular-season finale at Larks Park.
The Larks (29-9, 10-5 in division play) still have a shot at winning the KCLB's Jayhawk West Division, but need Dodge City to win one game during its two-game set with the Liberal Bee Jays on Wednesday and Thursday night. Before Wednesday night's action, Liberal trailed the first-place Larks by one game in the standings, but the Bee Jays own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Hays would automatically advance to the championship week of the National Baseball Congress World Series by winning the division. If not, the Larks would meet Dodge City, Wellington and McPherson in a four-team league tournament starting Saturday in Augusta. The winner of that tournament will clinch a spot in the first week of the NBC World Series.
“It’s that time of year where it’s going to be win or go home,” Larks manager Frank Leo said. “We’ve just got to see how far we can take it. It just amazes me how far we've gotten with this group of guys banged up the way we are."
Injuries have depleted the Larks' roster throughout the summer. Leo said the team is down to a 17-man roster.
“These guys just don’t quit,” Leo said. “They play with a lot of heart. They’ve given me a great effort in this stretch. ... We've got nine position players and eight pitchers. We’re trying to pick some (more players) up, but if it doesn’t happen, we’re just going to have to keep fighting.”
With the Larks trailing 5-4 in the top of the seventh and the bases loaded with two outs, reliever Tommy Garcia got the Larks out of a jam. The Larks then took control with four runs in the bottom of the seventh, using three walks and RBI singles from Alex Strachan and George Sutherland.
Garcia then tossed two scoreless innings to close out the must-win game.
“Tommy saved the game for us,” Leo said. “He came in with the bases loaded and that was the turning point in that game. If he gives up a big hit and we go down any further, I think our sails flatten a bit. That was a great outing. He gave us an opportunity to win.”
“We did some opportunistic things to get the lead,” Leo added. “Baserunning was a big key in that."