The Hays Larks took their first loss of the young season Friday night, dropping a 4-2 decision to the Denver Cougars at Larks Park.
The Larks (3-1) had nine hits but struggled to capitalize on opportunities, leaving nine on base.
Hays left the bases loaded in the fourth in a 1-1 game, and also left runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and eighth innings, suffering some tough luck at the plate.
"We had opportunities early against (Dylan) Munroe and we just couldn’t cash in," Larks manager Frank Leo said. "Baseball’s a funny game; sometimes you got to the ball to have some eyes to find that hole. That’s how (the Cougars) got their first two runs.
"We had some opportunities — we barreled the ball at those times; it wasn’t that we struck out. I thought we did battle good at the plate."
Denver took a 2-1 lead in the fifth after shortstop Matt Cavanagh couldn’t come up with a tough chopper off the bat of Juan Familia.
The Cougars added insurance in the eighth when Braden Boisvert doubled to score two runs off Rustin Hays.
Larks catcher Jake Wyeth, with runners on first and second in the eight, doubled deep to center to score Wyatt Divis, but Corbin Truslow was thrown out at the plate to keep it a two-run run game.
"What Trus did, he hesitated a little bit, thought the guy was going to catch it," Leo said. "Took a step back, which broke his momentum. With a guy like Trus, you’ve got to get that momentum going.
"It was a little bit of a gamble on my part. I thought we had a chance. The kid threw a strike to the plate. If he doesn’t throw a strike to the plate, we’re probably safe. I thought that was a great at-bat by Jake Wyeth to barrel the ball and get us close."
Larks starter Zach Firmature (Hutchinson Community College) went three innings, allowing one run on three hits with two walks while striking out four.
"Firmature, he’s going to get better," Leo said. "His command wasn’t there, but he’s got enough stuff. He’s got a good fastball and good secondary stuff. Just couldn’t get ahead of hitters, and that’s the name of the game. But he minimized; they had a chance to put three or four up on the board. I thought we did a great job minimizing."
Drew Buhr allowed an unearned run in three innings of relief for the Larks. Rustin Hays gave up two runs in three innings.
Truslow went 3 for 4 at the plate while Wyeth had two doubles.
Ashton Wetzler tossed four innings in relief to earn the win for Denver.
The Larks will open a two-game set against the Colorado Springs Outlaws at 7 p.m. on Saturday.