Larks 2-0 at NBC
By AUSTIN COLBERT
By AUSTIN COLBERT
WICHITA — It’s been said over and over again by Hays Larks manager Frank Leo that the team’s strength is its bullpen. And the longer the Larks can go without digging into its relievers, the more difficult it becomes for their opponents to push runners across home plate.
Case in point, Hays starter Jake Fromson’s five innings — three hits, one run allowed — against the Seattle Studs on Saturday night in the second round of the 80th annual National Baseball Congress World Series.
“You got to get a quality start so you don’t go to your bullpen too soon, and Jake did that for us,” Leo said. “We’ve seen him do that. He made pitches when he had to tonight, and that’s big. … Our bullpen is our strength, and if our starters can give us those five, six-inning quality starts, we will have a chance.”
With strong relief innings from David Koll and Blake Rogers to go with Fromson’s start, the Larks held off Seattle — the defending NBC World Series champion — 4-1 at Wichita’s Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The win moves the Larks to 2-0 in the 16-team, double elimination tournament. More importantly, it gives Hays Sunday and Monday off. They will play again Tuesday in the winner’s bracket semifinals against the winner of Sunday night’s game between St. Joseph (Mo.) and Santa Barbara (Calif.).
“Every time we needed to win so we could get some rest. We did it against Derby when we won the four-game series there,” Leo said. “Bought us a week off into the championship round. Win tonight, we knew going in, a win tonight and we would be off until Tuesday. Lose and we would have to play again tomorrow against a very, very quality and experienced club.”
Hays, coming off a solid 6-3 win over the San Diego Waves in the opening round early Saturday, looked equally as impressive against Seattle. The teams were scoreless entering the bottom of the third inning when an error led to a run by Derrick Mount. A single by Tyler Detmer a few batters later scored Michael Burns, giving the Larks a 2-0 lead after three innings.
Seattle scored its only run off Fromson in the top of the fourth, and the 2-1 score would hold into the bottom of the sixth. There, designated hitter Brooks Balisterri’s sacrifice fly allowed second baseman Zair Koeiman to score from third base.
An inning later, the Larks made it 4-1 when Detmer knocked a solo shot over the center field wall.
“Not very many home runs are hit in this park during the World Series, and particularly against that guy,” said Leo, referring to Seattle relief pitcher Taylor Thompson. “We’ve seen him many years. He is an old veteran, but he’s got that sidearm slider that has a ton of movement. For Tyler to get it out of the park and hit it off of that guy — we haven’t had much success with him over the years — but that was a bomb.”
Fromson exited the game after the fifth inning. Enter Koll, who struck out four batters and didn’t allow a hit over 1.2 innings of relief for the Larks. Rogers pitched the final 2.1 innings, allowing two hits and no runs.
Detmer led the offense, going 2 for 4 with one run and two RBI.
“This bunch has been fun to watch them grow together … I’ve enjoyed the heck out of watching these kids down the stretch play when they needed to, and they did that again,” Leo said. “They rose to the occasion tonight. Couldn’t be any more proud.”