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Larks sweep RoughRiders

Rick Peterson Jr.
rpeterson@dailynews.net
Rustin Hays gave the Larks six strong innings in Thursday's 4-1 win over the Colorado RoughRiders.

Pitching and defense shined again for the Hays Larks as they completed a three-game sweep of the Colorado RoughRiders and captured their sixth straight win with a 4-1 victory on Thursday night at Larks Park.

After three straight shutout victories, Larks’ pitchers kept the RoughRiders in check again. Knuckleballer Rustin Hays gave the Larks six strong innings. Fort Hays State’s Paddy Walsh threw two scoreless innings before Zach Firmature closed it out in the ninth.

Matt Cavanagh provided a couple highlight-reel plays at shortstop, and Jake Wyeth threw out a runner in a key spot to help key a strong defensive showing.

The Larks moved to 18-6 on the season and extended their first-place lead in the Rocky Mountain Baseball League to 2.5 games over the Denver Cougars, who the Larks will play this weekend in a three-game series, two of which are league games.

“We’ve been pitching it good, No. 1, and when you pitch it good you’ve got good opportunities to win a ballgame,” Larks manager Frank Leo said. “Defense has been good. Matt Cavanagh he’s just a magician in the middle.

“When you got a defense like that, and the pitchers throw strikes, that’ll give you an opportunity to win every night out.”

The Larks took a three-run lead into the ninth before the RoughRiders briefly threatened to rally. Brady Strickert led off with a double and Josh Smith followed with a single to put runners at the corners.

Wyeth, a standout catcher who is headed to LSU, changed the complexion of the inning when he threw out Smith attempting to steal second base. Firmature then notched back-to-back strikeouts to seal it.

“(Wyeth’s) not going to LSU because he can’t play this game; he’s a tremendous catcher with a great arm,” Leo said. “That was a great pop time; I’m saying it had to be a 1.8 (seconds). Big play, big turning point right there.”

Rustin Hays allowed one run and four hits while striking out seven and not giving up a walk.

“He had the knuckle ball working; sevens Ks,” Leo said. “The big thing with Rustin tonight, no walks. When he has command like that, he’s awful tough.”

Walsh worked around three hits in his two innings to keep the RoughRiders (13-14) off the board in the seventh and eighth.

“He made pitches when he had to, and it was the breaking pitch that froze the hitters,” Leo said. “Hitters expected fastballs, and he had confidence enough in that breaking pitch.”

Cameron Pehrson doubled in Matt Cavanagh to put the Larks on the board in the first. Cavanagh delivered a two-run single in the third and Palmer Hutchison had a sacrifice fly to score Wyatt Divis in the fifth.

Both teams finished with nine hits.

“We haven’t been a great offensive club as far as putting a lot of runs on the board against decent pitching,” Leo said. “But we’re doing the things we need to do; we’re scoring runs, just doing enough, so to speak, to win a ballgame. We’re relying on our pitching and defense to kind of hold somebody else down and try to just put enough on the board to get a W.”

The Larks are set to open the weekend set against the Cougars at 7 p.m. Friday. Friday and Saturday’s game are RMBL contests while Sunday’s game is a non-league game. Sunday’s game starts at 6 p.m.

“Big series with the Cougars; they’re right behind us,” Leo said. “We split two games with them earlier in the year. They’re a very good, solid ball club.”

HAYS LARKS 4, COLORADO ROUGHRIDERS 1

Colorado;000;010;000;—;1;9;0

Hays;120;010;000;—;4;9;1

Josh Smith, Lingk (7) and Goldfarb. Hays, Walsh (7), Firmature (9) and Wyeth. Colorado — 2B: Strickert. W — Hays. L — Smith. 2B — Colorado: Strickert. Hays: Pehrson.

Matt Cavanagh slides in for a run during the Larks' 4-1 win over the Colorado RoughRiders at Larks Park.