'What a night': Larks put on a show in season opener

Rick Peterson Jr.
Hays Daily News
Sam Crowell celebrates his first-inning home run for the Hays Larks in Friday's season opener against the Northern Colorado Roughnecks.
The Hays Larks' season opener was followed by a fireworks display to celebrate the Larks' 75th anniversary season.
Hays Larks' right fielder Tyler Palmer makes a diving catch.

Friday night's Hays Larks' season opener brought one of the biggest crowds Frank Leo had seen in his 40 years as manager.  

And the Larks made sure the packed crowd had plenty to cheer about.

The Larks kicked off their 75th anniversary season with a 10-1 win over the Northern Colorado Roughnecks at Larks Park. 

Opening night was capped off with a large fireworks display. 

"Our fans were kind of waiting for this to happen this year, after everything with COVID," Leo said. "What a crowd. We must have had close to fifteen hundred, two thousand people here tonight.

"I'm still trying to absorb it all in. What a night."

UT-Arlington's Sam Crowell ignited the Larks' offensive explosion with a 3-run homer in the bottom of the first inning. 

"It was great to come out here and play in front of all these fans," Crowell said. "Hitting that home run in front of all these people really started the season off good. I just crowded the plate and took the outer half away. He left a ball up and in, and I just let the hands work."

"He started the fireworks way back in the first inning," Leo said.

The Larks tacked on four more runs in the second inning, highlighted by a Leo Jiminian bases-loaded triple. 

Wyatt Divis, Jackson Blue and Luuk ter Beek each threw three innings. The Larks took a no-hitter into the ninth before the Roughnecks had back-to-back singles. The Roughnecks scored an unearned run off Blue in the fourth.

Cameron Pehrson had three of the Larks' 10 hits. 

"We barreled some balls, ran the bases well and pitched it extremely well — all three guys," Leo said. "Our veteran, Divis, got it started and then Blue and Beek behind him."

Crowell also had an RBI double, finishing with four runs driven in his Larks' debut. 

"I wasn't expecting it to be anything like it was," Crowell said of the fan turnout. "The crowd was really into it and made it a great time.

"(UTA teammates Matt Cavanagh and Divis) told me I had to be a Lark and the tradition is not like anything else. I was excited to be here and playing in front of everyone."

A big crowd was also hand on Thursday as the Larks hosted a vintage game between Larks alumni and Old Fort Hays Post 9. 

"After watching the crowd for the vintage game, I thought this place wasn't going to hold everybody and I was right," Leo said. "They were lined up all over the place. I've never seen a crowd this big.

"Just tremendous for our community, and that's what this program is about. They support us, they make sure we have a program every year with their financial help and our host families and everybody. Tremendous atmosphere. Our players are in awe of it. They just can't believe the atmosphere that's here. The atmosphere tonight was second to none."

The Larks and Roughnecks were set to play the second game of the series on Saturday before closing out the series on at 7 p.m. Sunday at Larks Park. 

"The guys played well," Leo said. "I like what I'm seeing so far. It's a first game, but first impressions mean a lot. The first impressions of these guys, after three days, they're getting along well together. And we've got some weapons, we really do."