Grant Lung helped the Hays Larks wipe out seven innings of frustration at the plate with one swing of the bat on Thursday night at Larks Park.
After being held scoreless by Boulder Collegians pitcher Zach Given, the Larks finally got to the lefty in the eighth inning, courtesy of a game-tying 3-run home run by Lung.
Wyatt Divis followed Lung with a double and was brought home by Corbin Truslow’s RBI single for what proved to be the game-winning run.
The Larks (10-4) survived some tense moments in the ninth after reliever Jacob Ensz walked the first two batters, but Ensz nailed down a 4-3 win by notching a strikeout with the bases loaded.
"What a fun win," Larks manager Frank Leo said. "It’s been a tough summer with all the COVID stuff going on. I know our fans enjoyed (Thursday’s game). We wanted to give our fans something this summer, and we sure gave them something tonight."
Given (University of Massachusetts) held the Larks to three runs over the first seven innings. In the eighth, Matt Cavanagh reached on a Collegians’ error to lead off. After retiring the next two hitters, Given surrendered a single Leo Jiminian to extend the inning and bring Lung to the plate.
Lung (University of Sioux Falls) took a second-pitch fastball over the right-field wall.
"That first two at-bats, that dude beat me pretty good on the outside half," Lung said. "Had a good slider. Third one, took it up the middle. On the last one, I was hoping he would come in; he threw me a slider in and then he threw me that fastball right there, and I just took a hack."
"Grant was locked in," Leo said. "His parents were here. When it left the bat I knew it had enough juice. I was just wondering if the wind was going to hold it up, and thank God it went to right and not to left because the wind was really holding it up to left field."
Divis then drove a pitch to deep center for a double off Isaac Parks, and Truslow singled up the middle.
"Uncle Mo, he showed up after (the home run)," Lung said. "We took off after that."
"Yogi (Berra) said, ’It ain’t over, til it’s over,’ and that was very indicative tonight," Leo said. "You got to get 27 outs in a nine-inning game, and we got after it thanks to Grant Lung giving us that boost, that energy, that swing."
Lung agreed with Leo that it was fun to provide an entertaining game for the Larks’ fans.
"I love it here," Lung said. "The fans, they get electric. It’s awesome to be a part of, especially a win like that when everyone’s into it and the team’s into it. It’s fun baseball."
Larks starter Landon Schirer went five innings, allowing two runs (one earned). Brady Rose went three innings in relief, giving up one run.
After Ensz walked the first two batters in the ninth, a bunt moved the runners into scoring position. Ensz then struck out Brady Renek, and the Larks intentionally walked Nick Arrivo.
With the bases loaded, Cade Nelson worked the count full, but Fort Hays State’s Ensz got him swinging with a slider.
"He thrives in that position; he’s got a tremendous slider," Leo said of Ensz. "It’s a tough pitch to hit. Got himself in a little bit of a hole with the first two hitters — maybe he was juiced up a little bit too much and was trying to throw fastballs. He got back in the groove with his slider."
The Larks were set to close out the three-game series with the Collegians at 7 p.m Friday at Larks Park.