Larks' run comes to an end at NBC
By AUSTIN COLBERT
By AUSTIN COLBERT
WICHITA -- Hays Larks manager Frank Leo got exactly what he expected out of starting pitcher Jake Fromson on Friday against the Seattle Studs in the semifinals of the 80th annual National Baseball Congress World Series.
But also meeting Leo's expectations was Seattle's starter, Scott Kuzminsky, who managed to do that little bit extra in the Studs' 2-0 win at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
"That's what a semifinal at this tournament should be like ... you had two powerhouses going at each other. Two outstanding efforts on both sides of the field," Leo said. "We thought it would be a pitchers' duel and it turned out to be a pitchers' duel."
Kuzminsky, a senior from the University of Hawaii, held the Larks to three hits and struck out nine batters in the complete-game performance. Fromson, a freshman out of Kansas State University, went seven innings, allowing two hits and one run, unearned, with five strikeouts.
The loss eliminated the Larks from the tournament, where they finished in third place for the second time in three years. Seattle went on to face the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters on Saturday in the NBCWS championship game.
"A game like this, you got to execute. We did what we could," Leo said. "Jake Fromson, what an outstanding effort. He went toe-to-toe in one of his longest outings for the summer, but at a key time. That's a big game and he was a big game pitcher tonight."
Fromson also started against Seattle on Aug. 2 in the second round of the winners' bracket, a 4-1 win for the Larks. He went five innings that game, allowing three hits and one run against the 2013 NBCWS champions.
Fromson was even more impressive Friday, until a couple of lapses by the Larks' defense led to an unearned run for Seattle in the top of the fourth inning after holding the Studs without a hit over the first three innings.
"They got a run across on that bunt we mishandled," Leo said. "We didn't have a whole lot of opportunities. We tried to create something ... you hope you play a clean game and maybe get a break and make something happen."
The Larks' hits came in the first, fourth and eighth innings. Only once did Hays get a runner into scoring position, after left fielder Aaron Cornell singled and then stole second base in the eighth inning. Five times the Larks went down in order during an inning.
Despite the offensive struggles, Fromson kept the game 1-0 until his exit to begin the eighth inning. Reliever Blake Rogers took his place, doing nearly everything right over the final two innings except for a two-out, solo home run by Bobby LeCount in the ninth inning that made it 2-0.
The Larks got a base runner on in the ninth when catcher Ty Detmer was walked with two outs, but first baseman Derek Birginske followed by grounding out during the next at-bat to end the game.
"It wasn't a second-place finish, it wasn't a national championship, but pretty proud of this club. It's one of my favorite Larks' clubs that I've coached," Leo said. "I'd be kidding if I didn't say we'd love to win one. We knock on the door and there is something to be said for knocking on the door and getting there."
The Larks finish the season 33-15, an impressive accomplishment considering 40 players suited up for Hays at some point this season, with nearly a third of them having had their summer season end early because of injury.
"We overcame a lot of adversity. It was fun to see," Leo said. "These guys, we are Larks. They believe in the Larks' program and never gave up. Our community is the reason they believe in the Larks. They saw that outstanding support that our community gives this club and gives this program and it spurs them on."
"Hays is becoming a commodity name down here," Leo added. "Teams know when they are going to play Hays they are in for a battle. Seattle knows that and we gave them everything tonight and they came out ahead."
Two Larks were presented with awards on Friday. Second baseman Zair Koeiman, a senior-to-be at Wichita State, was named the tournament's Most Inspirational Player. Center fielder Michael Burns, who will be a redshirt freshman at WSU, was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Local Player.