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Larks earn non-league win

By NICK McQUEEN

nmcqueen@dailynews.net

Two pitchers who will be added to the Hays Larks' postseason roster saw action Thursday night at Larks Park.

With his pitching staff depleting more each day it seems, Larks manager Frank Leo announced veterans Andy Lewton and Aaron Breit would be added for the National Baseball Congress World Series.

In a non-league 11-0 rout Thursday against the Junction City Brigade, Lewton made the start and Breit got the win in three innings of relief as Hays moved to 27-10 with the blowout victory.

"We've seen Andy for years,"  Leo said. "He's a veteran guy now and knows that getting ahead of hitters is a big part of being successful, and he did that."

Lewton last pitched for the Larks in 2011. He made eight appearances (seven starts) and finished 3-2 with a 4.41 earned-run average.

Breit, a former Hays Lark and Thomas More Prep-Marian High School standout who played at the AA level in the San Diego Padres organization, pitched on last summer's Larks postseason club that finished in a tie for third at the NBC.

"We're so thin right now," Leo said. "We really only have eight on staff."

That was prior to the team finding out reliever Dalton Viner decided to leave the team late Thursday due to family reasons.

"Right now, we have eight healthy bodies," Leo said. "We'll keep that together this weekend, but we have to have some reinforcements (for the NBC).

"We saw two of those guys out there tonight."

Lewton and Breit allowed two hits through six innings with no walks and Breit threw four strikeouts.

Nick Goza and Kyle Leroy pitched the final three shutout innings.

Meanwhile, the Larks' offense, which struggled in a 4-3 road loss to the Brigade on Wednesday, had a complete turnaround. Hays blasted 18 hits and had a 5-0 lead after two innings Thursday.

Four of those runs came in the second on five hits with one Junction City error. Brent Gillespie, Clayton Garland, Taylor Petersen and Desmond Roberts all drove in runs.

"We were just flat (Wednesday) night, but you have to tip your hat to their guy,"  Leo said. "He got ahead of hitters a lot and didn't walk anybody -- complete turnaround (Thursday)."

In the fourth, the Larks plated three more on a three-run home run for Zair Koeiman, his sixth of the summer that gave him his team-leading 35th RBI.

"We talked about that prior to the game -- getting better at-bats in batting practice to get ready for the big series coming up."

Koeiman, Blair Beck and Aaron Cornell had three hits each, and Roberts finished with a pair of RBIs when he reached on an error in the Larks' three-run sixth.

The Larks' focus shifts to today's 7 p.m. series opener against the Derby Twins.

Hays has a 2.5 game lead in the race for the Jayhawk League title, and has five games left on its schedule -- six if a makeup game with El Dorado is needed. Hays has three games with Derby, then two with Dodge City next week.

Chandler Hawkins (4-2, 2.47 ERA) will start today, then Nick Goza (5-0, 2.81) will get the nod Saturday. Newcomer Ross Vance is scheduled to make his Larks' debut in the series finale Sunday. Vance, a West Virginia University signee, was 8-3 with a 2.00 ERA for Dodge City Community College this spring.

"Friday night, that's the next biggest ball game," Leo said. "Hawkins is coming off a very good outing against Liberal.

"He needs to pound the zone and stay ahead of hitters, and we need to get focused, take advantage of opportunities," Leo added. "We can't think anything but Friday night right now."

Derby is 15-18 overall and 12-17 in the league, while Hays is 27-10 and 19-9 in league play, 2.5 games ahead of El Dorado.

El Dorado travels to Liberal for a three-game set, while third-place Wellington is at Dodge City.

It also was announced Thursday the Jayhawk League will receive two automatic bids into the second week or "championships week" of the NBC World Series. The top two league teams automatically will be in the final 16 at the NBC.