Rustin Hays and three relievers combined to keep the Boulder Collegians in check, helping the Larks complete a three-game sweep of Boulder with a 4-1 win on Friday night at Larks Park.
Hays, who bounced back after struggling to find his command in his last start in Colorado, gave up just one run in six innings to earn the win.
"It felt really good," Hays said. "I was kind of (ticked) about the last outing that I had in Colorado. This one, I told myself I was just going to come out and lock it in."
Hays, a knuckleballer who is playing his second straight summer with the Larks, allowed five hits and walked two while striking out five.
"It was good to see Rus come back with a good start," Larks manager Frank Leo said. "He was determined. He had the ball floating and it was around the plate. When he does that, pretty tough to hit."
Hays turned it over to the bullpen in the seventh inning, and Trey Riggs and Zach Firmature and Trevor Munsch all tossed a scoreless inning apiece in a game that took just an hour and 50 minutes to complete.
"Everybody tonight brought their A game," Hays said. "They wanted to get in, get their work in and call it a night."
Riggs, a Hays High product, worked around a fluke bunt single in the seventh, striking out three in the frame.
"Trey’s pitched with some tough luck; they’ve got some cheap hits off of him and scored some runs off him," Leo said. "I thought he kept his composure today. He’s just got to stay focused.
"I thought Firmature did a real good job. Firm needed a good, clean inning like that to kind of get rolling. It was a good job for our relief staff. We’re going to need it, we’ve got a tough series coming up with the (Colorado) Sox. The guys that threw today threw limited pitches. They’ll all be available tomorrow."
Wyatt Divis put the Larks on the board in the first with a sacrifice fly to score Leo Jiminian. Divis also broke a 1-1 tie with a run-scoring hit in the bottom of the third.
Cameron Pehrson homered for the fourth time in four games, belting a pitch to left field to extend the Larks’ lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth. Matt Cavanagh provided an insurance run with an RBI double in the eighth. Pehrson went 3-for-4 with the homer and two doubles, while Cavanagh also collected three hits.
"That was a big hit to get us up to 4 to 1," Leo said of Cavanagh’s double. "It was a two-strike approach. Some of our guys have to learn how to handle the bat with two strikes and not get too big. Cav’s got the perfect approach."
Saint Louis University’s Drew Buhr — a versatile player who has played infield, outfield and pitched for the Larks — came up with a key defensive play from right field. He threw out a runner trying to stretch a single to a double in the sixth while the Larks were protecting a one-run lead.
"I thought he turned perfectly, did a 180 on that and threw a pea to second base," Leo said. "We’ve seen him on the mound, we know he has a good arm, but you’ve got to be accurate from that distance and he was."
The Larks (11-4) will continue the homestand by facing the Colorado Sox on Saturday and Sunday night at Larks Park. They will be looking to avenge a pair of losses to the Sox from last week’s road trip.
"We let two games slip," Leo said. "They got some decent arms. We’re going to have to keep doing what we’re doing. We got to pitch it good and take advantage of what they give us."
HAYS LARKS 4, BOULDER COLLEGIANS 1
Rivera, Toledo (8) and Pearce. Hays, Riggs (7), Firmature (8) and Munsch (9) and Wyeth. W — Hays. L — Rivera. 2B — Colorado: Renek. Hays: Pehrson, Cavanagh. HR — Hays: Pehrson.