Larks lose in extra innings
By CONOR NICHOLL
By CONOR NICHOLL
After Hays Larks' home games, manager Frank Leo normally allows his team to mill around with friends and family for a few minutes, sign some autographs and play with the younger kids who come onto the field after the contest. Generally, 10-15 minutes after the game is finished and the ballpark is nearly empty, Leo will gather his team just outside the third-base dugout.
On Monday, though, the Larks took their third straight home loss to Wellington, 8-7, in 11 innings. Hays hit three homers, two from catcher Taylor Petersen, including a grand slam. However, Hays committed two errors, one by third baseman Ty Gilmore in the ninth inning. Center fielder Desmond Roberts also lost a fly ball in the dusk in the ninth, two plays that allowed the Heat to tie the game.
As well, starter Colin Hightower left the game in the first inning with a possible season-ending arm injury, assistant coach Dustin Washburn was ejected in the sixth inning and the Larks lost the tying run at the plate in the 11th inning.
Immediately after the game ended, Leo gathered his team together.
"That was a very tough loss for our guys," Leo said. "They battle hard and some unfortunate things happened for those guys to get back in the game. ... That's just the way this whole series went. They seemed to have that karma this weekend that coaxed balls to find the grass, to find the holes. For us to make some mistakes. They capitalized on everything."
Hays dropped to 19-6, 13-6 Jayhawk League, while Wellington moved to 16-9, 12-9. The Larks will conclude the seven-game homestand, the longest of the season, tonight against Dodge City.
"It's tough, but that's just kind of how baseball is," Roberts said. "You get to come out (today) and play. I know we all took this one to heart. We are going to bounce back."
In the first inning, Hightower pitched to just six batters before Brandon Anderson relieved.
"He could be done for the year," Leo said. "Didn't feel good in the bullpen. Should have told us that before he started the night. Didn't feel good when he went out there."
Hightower allowed one run on three hits with a walk and collected two outs. Anderson battled through 4.1 innings and allowed two runs.
Anderson is about 14 months removed from labrum surgery and hurt his shoulder June 7 against El Dorado and missed some time. He has made two relief appearances since his return.
"Just kind of the same thing that happened to me a few weeks ago," Anderson said. "Kind of a funny situation. Now, I am the guy coming in to pick him up. That's what I told myself. They picked me up a couple of weekends ago. It was my turn to return the favor."
Hays and the fanbase were displeased with several ball/strike calls. However, the Larks had just nine position players because Josh White and Aaron Cornell (injuries) and Cody Daily (out of town) weren't available. Austin Unrein, a Hays High standout, was in uniform for the Larks. In the sixth, Jake Platczek struck out looking and
Washburn ended up being ejected.
"The main thing that coach Washburn did, he charged out there to get Jake back in the dugout," Leo said. "We are operating with nine position players and I have got to give our guys credit, because we have no options. These guys have got to get out there, and they have got to stay out there until we get some reinforcements in here."
"He was going out to protect Platczek," Leo added. "The umpire was coming his way ready to do something instead of just getting back and staying away. He was following Jake, which I don't understand why. That was not a frustration thing. He was out defending our guy making sure nothing happened and got caught up in the heat of the moment."
Petersen hit a solo shot in the first and then delivered a grand slam in the fifth inning. As well, Brett Lang hit a solo shot in the eighth. Hays hit seven homers in the series. Hays led 7-5 entering the top of the ninth with closer David Owen, who had yet to allow an earned run this season, on the mound. However, Gilmore committed an error on Aaron Siple to lead off the inning, his third miscue of the series. In addition, Gilmore couldn't get a bunt down in the 11th.
"We haven't seen Ty do that," Leo said. "He didn't have a strong defensive series. He squared up a few balls for us, but his game is the bunt game."
After a popout, Joe Williams hit a routine fly ball to center field that Roberts lost. The ball dropped for a double. A single and force out tied the game.
"It's tough to see," Roberts said. "There is a cloud like right behind home plate, so if it went up, you couldn't see it. Then, right as it was hit, I lost it. I had no idea where it was."
"It's the dusk," Leo added. "It's that time of night. There is about a 15-minute period where it's not quite dark enough and the sun is going down. It's unfortunate we had to be on defense when that happened. Their guy partially lost one the inning before."
In the 11th, Hays had a chance to tie, but Mackenzie Handel was thrown out in a controversial call at home — "a blown call," Roberts said — and Zair Koeiman grounded out with the winning run at first to end the game.