The Hays Larks found their groove at the plate in their final game before the NBC World Series, closing the regular season with a 10-2 win over the Gameday Saints on Wednesday night at Larks Park.
After struggling at the plate in their last few games, the Larks put up seven runs in the fourth against the Saints and added two runs in the fifth and another in the sixth.
"It was good to (put up 10 runs)," Larks manager Frank Leo said. "I think in our last eight games, every one of them has been a nail-biter. We’ve taken them to the wire, we’ve made some comebacks, (the Saints) shut us down (Tuesday). So it was good to have a nice one to end (the regular) season."
The game was delayed for about 50 minutes after the first inning when storms rolled through.
"It was good that Mother Nature gave us a chance, stopped raining, because we really needed to get this game in tonight," Leo said. "We had a lot of pitchers that we needed a final tune-up for. We had a new player at second base (Cruz Aranda) we wanted to take a look at. I think everything went as planned. Really pleased with how the outcome went."
The Larks (20-8) will now set their sights on the 13-team NBC World Series in Wichita and Hutchinson. Hays will open the tournament against the Kansas City All-Stars at 6 p.m. Monday at Eck Stadium in Wichita.
Hays had eight hits and eight walks on Wednesday. Leo Jiminian and Wyatt Divis each had two hits.
Drew Buhr drew the start and pitched the first two innings while Ryan Ruder, Paddy Walsh, Brady Rose, Jacod Ensz and Divis all pitched well in relief.
Leo was grateful the Larks were able to play a 28-game regular season this summer amid the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Tonight I can finally take a deep breath," Leo said. "Every night you wonder, ’Are we going to get to play tomorrow?’ Because this COVID is such an unknown and spreads like wildfire. Anything could have shut us down. That we were able to get this season in, it’s a big sigh of relief."
The Larks had a player test positive for the coronavirus just before the start of the season and then had the entire team tested for COVID-19 before proceeding with the season.
Leo commended Ellis County Health Services Director Jason Kennedy for his guidance in consulting with the Larks on their plan to play this summer.
"He knew that the people of Hays wanted something this summer to give them some entertainment, and the Larks were it," Leo said. "Our crowds weren’t what they normally are, but we gave the people something. A big thank you to Jason Kennedy. He’s got a tough job with this COVID thing. For him to go to bat for us and to give us an opportunity to play, we really appreciate that."
Hays Larks 10, Gameday Saints 2
Hirsch, Smith (4), Foegen (5), Goldy (6), Schraeder (7), Weaver (8) and Best. Buhr (2), Ruder (3), Walsh (5), Rose (7), Ensz (8), Divis (9) and Wyeth, Lummus (8). W — Ruder. L — Smith. 2B — Hays: Divis, Cooper, Pehrson. HR — Saints: Bailey.