After losing four key players heading into next week’s National Baseball Congress World Series, the Hays Larks have been busy adding reinforcements.
The Rocky Mountain Baseball League champions will be without the services of second baseman Grant Lung, catcher Jacob Wyeth and pitchers Landon Schirer and Brady Rose. Lung will miss the tournament with an injury while the other three players are heading back to their respective schools.
The Larks (20-8) have acquired seven new players to help fill the void as they gear up for their NBC World Series opener against the Kansas City All-Stars at 6 p.m. Monday at Wichita State’s Eck Stadium.
"We want to be as strong as we can," Larks manager Frank Leo said. "We want to have some bench if we need to pinch hit. This is going to give us some options."
Lung’s replacement is Salina native Cruz Aranda, who made his Larks debut at second base in the regular season finale this past Wednesday. He played at Campbell University in North Carolina this past season and is transferring to Pittsburg State for the upcoming year.
"Cruz, I feel comfortable with him; he just hasn’t played this summer," Leo said. "He’s got the speed game, which is going to give us a big addition. Right now, all we have is Leo (Jiminian), and with the addition of Cruz, we’ll have two legitimate guys that can run and get us bags if we need them."
New pitchers include Zach Curry (Pittsburg State), Carlos Tavera (UT-Arlington) and Garrett McGowan, who played at the University of Illinois last season and is also transferring to Pitt State.
Tavera pitched with the Larks last summer.
"An outstanding arm," Leo said of Tavera.
The Larks brought in two more catchers — Gus Freeman and Hector Corillo Jr. — to be protected behind the dish after losing Wyeth. Freeman (Cowley County Community College) played this summer in Derby, while Corillo played last spring at Dodge City and is headed to Pitt State.
Brennen van Breusegen, from the University of Central Missouri, will play in the outfield for the Larks.
The NBC World Series tournament field was shortened to 13 teams this year amid the pandemic. Teams will alternate between playing at Eck Stadium and Hobart-Detter Field in Hutchinson on Monday through Thursday, with the final four days being played at Eck.
The Larks are joined in the tournament by four fellow in-state teams — the Cheney Diamond Dawgs, Hutchinson Monarchs, Rose Hill Sluggers and Liberal Bee Jays.
The tournament also features the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters, winners of seven NBC World Series titles since 2006. The Foresters, Diamond Dogs and Monarchs all have first-round byes.
Fans will be required to wear masks upon arrival at the tournament sites, and social distancing will be required in the stands.
Leo said the Kansas City All-Stars are comprised of recent high school graduates.
"They’re going to have some pitching," Leo said of the Larks’ first-round opponent. "They’re going to have some guys that are probably 86 to 88 (miles per hour). We’ve got to be ready for it.
"It doesn’t matter how old a kid is, if he can pitch and get outs, he’s going to give you trouble. We’ve got to be ready for them on Monday. We can’t take anybody lightly if we want to stay in this tournament."
Leo said the key to a deep tournament run will hinge on the Larks’ execution at the plate.
"We have to be good situational hitters," Leo said. "When we got men on base, we’ve got to bear down. We’ve got to either get a bunt down, move the runner to third or get that key base hit. That’s going to be key for us to stay in this tournament a long time."
NBC World Series Schedule
Monday, Aug. 3
3 p.m., Hutchinson -- Colorado Cyclones vs. Hattiesburg, Miss. Black Sox (Game 5)
6 p.m., Hutchinson -- Rose Hill Sluggers vs. Denver Cougars (Game 1)
6 p.m., WSU -- Hays Larks vs. Kansas City All-Stars (Game 4)
8:30 p.m., Hutchinson -- Liberal Bee Jays vs. Houston Express (Game 2)
8:30 p.m., WSU -- Lonestar (Texas) Baseball Club vs. Houston MVP Prospects (Game 3)
Tuesday, Aug. 4
3 p.m., Hutchinson -- Loser of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4 (Game 10)
6 p.m., Hutchinson -- Winner of Game 2 vs. Hutchinson Monarchs (Game 7)
6 p.m., WSU -- Winner of Game 5 vs. Cheney Diamond Dawgs (Game 8)
8:30, Hutchinson -- Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4 (Game 9)
8:30, WSU -- Santa Barbara, Calif. Foresters vs. Winner of Game 1 (Game 6)
Wednesday, Aug. 5
TBD, WSU -- Loser of Game 5 vs. Loser of Game 6 (Game 11)
TBD, Hutchinson -- Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 8 (Game 12)
TBD, WSU -- Loser of Game 2 vs. Loser of Game 9 (Game 13)
TBD, Hutchinson -- Loser of Game 7 vs. Winner of Game 10 (Game 14)
Thursday, Aug. 6
TBD, WSU -- Winner of Game 6 vs. Winner of Game 7 (Game 15)
TBD, WSU -- Winner of Game 9 vs. Winner of Game 8 (Game 16)
TBD, Hutchinson -- Winner of Game 14 vs. Winner of Game 11 (Game 17)
TBD, Hutchinson -- Winner of Game 12 vs. Winner of Game 13 (Game 18)
Friday, Aug. 7
TBD, WSU -- Loser of Game 19 vs. Winner of Game 17 (Game 19)
TBD, WSU -- Loser of Game 15 vs. Winner of Game 18 (Game 20)
Saturday, Aug. 8
TBD, WSU -- Winner of Game 15 vs. Winner of Game 16 (Game 21)
TBD, WSU -- Winner of Game 19 vs. Winner of Game 20 (Game 22)
Sunday, Aug. 9
6 p.m., WSU -- Loser of Game 21 vs. Winner of Game 22 (Game 23)
Monday, Aug. 10
6 p.m., WSU -- Winner of Game 21 vs. Winner of Game 23 (Game 24)
8:30 p.m., WSU -- If undefeated team loses Game 24