Cortland Lawson, Grant Lung team up for Larks

Hays Larks
Grant Lung celebrates after hitting a home run against the Colorado Sox on Saturday at Larks Park.

Grant Lung has been a constant at second base for the Hays Larks. He has had different double-play partners due to injuries and matchups. Saturday night, Lung welcomed a new Larks shortstop.

Cortland Lawson, a sophomore infielder for the Tennessee Volunteers, arrived in Hays Friday night shortly after the squad was eliminated at the College World Series. Less than 24 hours later, he was in the starting lineup at Larks Park.

“It has been hectic,” Lawson said. “I got here, didn’t know what to expect.”

Lawson wasn’t expecting to have a big night at the plate against the Colorado Sox. He homered to left field in his first at-bat, hit another home run later in the game and finished with three hits and four RBI. While watching his long fly ball in his first at-bat, he saw the Sox left fielder jump for the ball at the wall. At first, Lwson was unsure if he hit it out.

“I was looking out there to see if he had the ball,” Lawson said. “I saw the home plate umpire twirl his finger (to signal a home run). I said, ‘Alright, how about that.’ ”

Lung had an alright night at the plate, too. The left-handed hitting leadoff man doubled off the wall in his first at-bat to set the tone for the night, as Hays won 21-2 and pounded out 17 hits. Lung finished 5-for-5 with two home runs, two doubles, five runs scored and five RBI.

“I just felt good at the dish, got some good pitches to hit,” Lung said. “I've had a couple five-hit games, but nothing like (Saturday) night. I don’t know if I’ve ever hit two home runs in a game, and had two doubles. That was probably my best game ever.”

While running to second base on his double to start the game, Lung slipped rounding first. He got up in time to still safely make it to second, but still was the subject of some good-natured barbs.

“I heard about it for an inning or two,” Lung said with a laugh. “I got a bunch of text messages and a couple phone calls about it. It was all in good fun.

“The turf is a little slick, especially when it’s hot,” he added. “Sliding into second, it’s really slick.”

Lung and Lawson turned in a slick double play in their first game together. New DP combo, but it’s still just baseball.

“It’s not as hard as some people might think,” Lung said. “You take some ground balls before the game, communicate there a little bit.”

Lawson found it easy to team up with Lung the first night out.

“He’s a good dude,” Lawson said. “It was a pretty easy transition.”

Veteran Larks manager Frank Leo was happy to see the big night at the plate for his team. Hays had a nine-run inning and a seven-run inning and in addition to Lung and Lawson’s hitting, catcher Sam Crowell belted a grand slam.

“Offense caught on fire, didn’t stop,” Leo said.

Leo wanted Lawson in Hays as soon as possible after the CWS because shortstop Matt Cavanagh went down with a hamstring injury in the team’s last game. Ironically, Cavanagh, in his first game as a Lark in 2019, also hit a homer and had four hits.

“That’s one of the reasons I pushed getting him here,” Leo said. “He can play all three positions. He’s going to give us some great infield depth.”

Lawson played shortstop again on Sunday and hit an RBI single and walked three times. On Monday against Junction City, Lawson filled in for Lung at second. He singled, tripled and walked.

Lawson also is getting to know a future teammate at Tennessee in outfielder Dylan Dreiling, who will be a senior at Hays High next year. Dreiling has been getting some at-bats with the Larks, and Lawson has taken batting practice with him.

“He’s got a lot of potential,” Lawson said. “I think he can be a really good player for us.”

Lawson had heard about the good crowds at Larks Park before arriving in Hays, and saw the packed stands first-hand over the weekend.

“That was pretty awesome, makes the games better than they already are,” Lawson said. “Gives you a lot of energy.”

Lung, who joined the Larks for the postseason in 2019 and was with the team all of last summer, said Hays is a special place.

“It’s incredible; I enjoy it so much,” Lung said. “The fans are awesome.

“It’s completely different from a lot of summer teams,” he added. “I played on another summer team, and it was nothing like this. It’s some of the most fun I’ve had playing baseball.”