“We talked after the game (Friday) night, the key to winning the Jayhawk League title is winning series,” Hays manager Frank Leo said. “They came to the park to play.”
Center fielder Ryne Randle, hitting second in the batting order, got on base five times, including four walks, and scored four runs. Designated hitter Wyatt Divis and left fielder John Martin each drove in a pair of runs.
“We had a meeting before the game about our hitting,” said Randle, who is batting .320 with a .514 on-base percentage. “Looks like it worked.”
Leo likes having Randle at the top of the order.
“You’re not going to get him to chase a whole lot,” Leo said of Randle, who is second on the team with 10 walks. “He’s great in the two-hole.”
Hays (6-2 overall, 3-1 Jayhawk) got a run in the first when Randle walked with one out, stole second and came home on Martin’s two-out infield single. The Larks had a chance at a big inning in the third but got only one run when Randle scored on a bases-loaded double-play ball.
The Larks broke through for four runs in the fourth, chasing El Dorado starter Dylan Dzendzel, who took the loss. The first run of the inning scored on an error, then Divis lined a double into the gap in left-center to score two more, and Martin added a sacrifice fly.
After the Broncos (2-2, 2-2) scored two runs in the fifth to get within 6-2, Hays added a run in the sixth and three in the seventh. Randle walked to lead off the sixth, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on first baseman John Rensel’s grounder to second. In the seventh, shortstop Kolby Robinson hit an RBI single, third baseman Devin Hager’s groundout scored a run and a wild pitch added another.
Larks right-hander Carlos Tavera picked up the win in relief of starter Mason Myhre, who worked four scoreless innings until faltering in the fifth. After getting the first out of the inning, Myhre allowed a single and two walks to load the bases, bringing in Tavera. A sacrifice fly made it 6-1, then Tavera walked two straight batters, the second one forcing in another run. Tavera then locked into a battle with Broncos catcher Brady Sargent, who kept fouling off fastballs. Tavera tried a curveball on the outside corner for strike three to end the threat. Sargent did not like the call, gesturing to the umpire with his hands apart.
“I think a key turning point in that game, 6-2 ball game, Tavera’s got the bases loaded and that kid keeps fouling off fastball, fastball, fastball,” Leo said. “Tavera trusted his curveball and froze the guy.”
Tavera worked a 1-2-3 sixth before giving way to right-hander Fabian Muniz in the seventh. The Larks right-hander had a runner on second with two outs when El Dorado third baseman John Sorensen hit a line drive to deep center field. Randle raced back and made a diving catch to end the inning.
“When that ball left the bat we’re all in (the dugout) thinking that’s probably over his head,” Leo said. “Out of nowhere – that was outstanding. One of the better catches I’ve seen a center fielder make.”
Muniz finished up, tossing three scoreless innings for his second save. He allowed two hits with one walk and four strikeouts. In eight innings over three appearances, Muniz has not allowed a run, with three walks and nine strikeouts.
“Fabian’s good; he works at a great pace,” Leo said. “He kind of slings that off-speed slider, whatever he’s throwing. That change of pace is tough to stay on.”
Muniz was throwing with a three-quarters delivery that made it tough on Broncos right-handed hitters. He struck out the final two batters to end the game, both of them flailing away on off-speed deliveries.
“Everything was working for me,” said Muniz, who can drop to a sidearm delivery. “I usually throw my two-seam (fastball). My slider was working, my changeup was on. Everything was on tonight, felt great.”
Hays’ probable starter for Sunday’s series finale is right-hander Austin Thomason, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery on his arm.