Nebraska Cornhusker Tyler Palmer displaying power, versatility with Larks

Rick Peterson Jr.
Hays Daily News
Hays Larks outfielder Tyler Palmer is greeted by teammates after hitting his first of two home runs on Saturday against the Fort Collins Foxes.

Tyler Palmer used his redshirt season at the University of Nebraska as an opportunity to soak up as much knowledge as he could from his teammates and coaches.

Palmer is now using his time with the Hays Larks as another opportunity to fine-tune his game, already displaying the promise and versatility that led him to Lincoln. 

The outfielder hit two home runs as the first-place Larks kicked off a massive homestand with a 12-2 win over the Fort Collins Foxes on Saturday night at Larks Park.

It was the second two-homer game on the week for Palmer, who is tied for the team lead with six home runs on the summer. 

"I've just been going up to the plate and staying with my approach," Palmer said. "Just hunting fast balls on the outside half, just kind of reacting to everything else.

"We've put up some numbers. We've hit the ball really well as a team. I'm just happening to get lucky and get them over the fence."

Palmer signed with the Cornhuskers out of Columbus, Neb., where he was a three-sport star at Scotus Central Catholic High School.

He said he took value from his redshirt year with the Huskers, who went 34-14 this past season and reached the NCAA regional. 

"It was really fun to be a part of, with a great coaching staff and great upperclassmen," Palmer said. "They taught me a lot along the way, physically and mentally. They really helped me excel a lot, on and off the baseball field."

With the Larks, Palmer is hitting .429 (12 of 28 with eight walks) in 10 games.

"It's great to be back playing baseball again in this atmosphere and community," Palmer said. "Everybody gets behind the Larks. Every day we play for them. It's our job to play 100 percent, play with intensity, play with passion. We do it all for them. I can't thank Hays enough for what they've given me.

"(Larks pitching coach Keith Harper) would call me about once a week and remind me all about Hays and how the stadium is packed every game and how the community really treats you well. ... He was 100 percent spot-on. This community, they come out to support the Larks and they're great."

Palmer, who has been hitting leadoff, smacked a two-run homer to left field in the second inning, then hit another two-run shot to left in the fourth on Saturday. 

"The first one, just saw the curveball out of his hand and just took a hack at it," Palmer said. "It was a hanging curveball and I was just trying to hit it hard somewhere, and I barreled it up and hit it to left center. Second one was just exactly my approach — it was a middle away fastball and I just kept my nose on it and didn't pull off."

Larks manager Frank Leo said Palmer is working his way back to 100 percent from an injury that's caused him to miss some games this summer. 

"The kid's got some surprising power," Leo said. "(The home runs) haven't been cheap ones."

Palmer also came up clutch on the mound for the Larks last week. He tossed four scoreless innings to earn the win in a 15-11 victory in 10 innings at the Kansas Cannons last Tuesday. 

"I threw in high school, didn't pitch in college," Palmer said. "[Nebraska pitching coach Jeff Christy], gave me a shot, said go throw a few innings a week down in Kansas and let us know how you do. I love pitching, love pitching for the Larks."

"Versatility is important in the summertime," Leo said. "You don't have guys you can go down to and get. What you got right now is the 24-man roster. We've got multiple guys that can do different things for us, play positions and pitch."

On Saturday, Oklahoma Sooner Cade Brown tossed the first three innings, allowing one run. Wyatt Divis started the game as the designated hitter before throwing the last four innings on the mound, with the Larks forcing the run rule in the seventh. Divis gave up just one run. 

"We try to keep Wyatt's bat in the lineup as much as we can," Leo said. "By DHing and doing that opening thing, it enables Divis to throw fewer innings and get his ABs up."

Larks centerfielder Leo Jiminian crashed hard into the fence while tracking a ball in the second inning on Saturday, but he shook it off and remained in the game. 

"Fantastic effort on his part," Leo said. "He had no fear of the wall. He went after it, didn't hold back. Did the same thing on a play later in the game. He was a little dazed, lost his breath a little bit, but he's a tough kid. He's playing not at 100 percent (hamstring), but I thought he ran real well tonight."

On Sunday, the Larks (18-4, 8-2 Rocky Mountain Baseball League) pushed their winning streak to six with a 14-6 win over the Foxes.  Wyatt Divis, Cortland Lawson and Cade Brown all homered. Divis went 3 of 4 at the plate with four runs driven in. 

Tennessee's Jake Fitzgibbons drew the start on Sunday, striking out 13 in five innings. He allowed four runs on five hits and five walks.

Trevor Munsch and Derek Decolati, a new Lark who is headed to the University of Nevada, each threw two innings in relief. 

The Larks will be at home for the rest of the regular season, with 12 games left on a 14-game homestand.

 "It's great to be back home," Leo said. "The intensity that this crowd brings to our ball club is tremendous."