KLINT SPILLER • Hays Daily News
Hays Larks pitcher Justin Ziegler, center, is congratulated by teammates Joey Begel, left, and Zair Koeiman, right, after throwing a perfect third inning against the Hutchinson Monarchs on Monday at the NBC World Series at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita.
Bats come alive for Larks in win
By KLINT SPILLER
WICHITA -- Hays Larks pitcher Justin Ziegler left the mound with a big smile on his face after ending his perfect third inning with a strikeout.
It was one of three perfect innings for Ziegler in his one-run pitching gem on Monday.
He had a similar solid outing in the first game of the tournament when the Larks lost 2-1 to the Greeley (Colo.) Grays, but he received little offensive support.
But on Monday against the Hutchinson Monarchs (28-20) in the elimination bracket of the NBC World Series at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, that wasn't the case.
The Larks' bats were connecting with anything and everything, and Hays run ruled the Hutchinson Monarchs 11-1 in six innings to improve to 33-12.
"It was good to see the bats come alive," Ziegler said. "They've slowly but surely come along, and to put up 11 runs is great to see. It takes a lot of pressure off our pitching staff."
Ziegler (6-2) allowed one run (unearned), four hits and one walk in six innings of work, and he struck out four.
In his two starts this tournament, Ziegler has thrown 15 innings, struck out eight and allowed one earned run, 11 hits and two walks.
"I go out there every time and take one inning at a time," Ziegler said. "I pitch trying to put up a zero every inning."
The Larks' pitching has been dominant this tournament, never allowing more than two runs in a game, but the bats have been slow to catch up.
After losing 2-1 in the first round, Hays won its next two games 3-2 before getting its bats sparked against Tulsa with a 9-2 win.
Against Hutchinson, the Larks unleashed their full offensive onslaught, compiling 14 hits in the shortened game -- six for extra bases.
"We pitched it, played good defense and hit it," Larks manager Frank Leo said. "That's something you want to continue to happen. It's hard to get all three every night, and in this tournament at the point we are at right now, we are going to have to continue what we did tonight."
Five Larks had multi-hit games.
Center fielder Aaron Cornell finished 3 of 4 with two runs scored and an RBI, and designated hitter Adam Humes was 3 of 4 with an RBI.
Right fielder Austin Darby recorded four RBIs and two runs scored while going 2 of 4 at the plate. Ryan Busboom was 2 of 2 with an RBI and two runs scored, and catcher Brett Lang finished 2 of 3 with two doubles, three RBIs and a run scored.
The Larks started off hot, scoring three runs in the first inning and built a cushion in the third.
With two outs, Busboom, third baseman Joe Betcher and Lang hit three consecutive doubles to score two runs.
Then Hays put the game out of reach in the sixth with six runs off six hits and two walks.
"Our guys are starting to square some balls up, and it's good to see," Leo said.
Ziegler said he thinks his team struggled at first at the tournament because it was out of its element.
He said they weren't used to playing at odd hours and it messed with their rhythm.
"It was a change of pace," Ziegler said. "We overcame the adversity a little bit after we started a game at 2:30 in the morning. That was new for us, but we got everybody together realizing we have a real shot to do something in this tournament."
The Larks have a day off today to rest and prepare for the Nevada, Mo., Griffons at 5 p.m. on Wednesday. The Griffons are former members of the Jayhawk League, and they eliminated Haysville on Monday 7-6.
"Nevada's been out of the Jayhawk League (since 2008), but they were very competitive and made runs at the league title," Leo said. "Names change, but the types of quality of players that you keep recruiting doesn't change. Nevada keeps recruiting good kids, so we'll be tested."
If the Larks manage to pick up a win against Nevada, Hays will become one of the last six teams still alive in the tournament.
"The round of six is something very special that teams shoot for in this tournament, and we've got a day off to prepare to get ready for it," Leo said.