Divis dominates in Larks’ NBC opener

Mark Schnabel
Hays Lark shortstop Matt Canavaugh makes a play against the Kansas City All-Stars at the NBC World Series at Eck Stadium in Wichita.

WICHITA — The Hays Larks announced their presence with authority at the 86th National Baseball Congress World Series Monday night with a 10-0 first-round win over the Kansas City All-Stars, an 18U team.

The game was halted after seven innings on the run rule.

Hays pitcher Wyatt Divis went five innings for the win, allowing two hits with two walks and nine strikeouts out of 18 batters faced. Drew Buhr allowed a walk with a strikeout in an inning. Ryan Ruder finished the game.

“The first inning, I had a little figuring out to do with new baseballs,” Divis said. “It took me a while to get my slider grip. I had my fastball. I had to pay attention to how they were swinging, especially on the slider. Everything felt good today.”

Like all teams this summer in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, the biggest challenge for the Larks was just taking the field.

“You only get 20 games to perform and do the best you can be,” Divis said. “It’s been a weird season, but it’s been fun. (The win) is important because we have to go again tomorrow. We want to get another win and keep this thing going.”

“It was a tough start for us,” Hays manager Frank Leo said. “We almost got shut down. We had a positive test. We weren’t sure we would even have a season. It’s like every time we take the field, lets enjoy it. It’s something we have to respect — the COVID thing. We just wanted to give the people of Hays some kind of baseball. We wanted to do our best — and safest — to put a team on the field.”

Leo credited Jason Kennedy of the Ellis County Health Department for helping the team navigate the COVID mine field this season.

After decades in the Jayhawk League, Hays moved to the Kansas Collegiate League last season and into the Rocky Mountain Collegiate League this season.

“It was more scenic in Colorado,” Divis said. “The ball was flying everywhere. It was great competition. It was a great time being around my teammates. It was a blast.”

“We played a lot of the Colorado teams. We just didn’t make many trips there,” Leo said. “Going to Colorado isn’t bad compared to summertime in Kansas. We didn’t have a typical real hot summer, but out there, by 4:30 or 5 o’clock in the evening, your sitting at 70 degrees. We enjoyed it.”

It was the first appearance for the All-Stars.

“All the guys are 2020 graduates and will be heading off to college,” All-Stars manager Dale Reed said. “I think they realize they have to get bigger, stronger, faster. It’s a great experience for them. We knew it was going to be tough. We were just trying to compete. They were a good ballclub. They had a couple of big innings. We had a couple errors at the end of the game. We needed to get the ball in play to have a chance to compete.”

Hays loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the first. After a strikeout and a ground out, the Larks scored on a walk and a wild pitch. The Larks had runners on second and third base with one out in the top of the fourth, scoring on a ground out.

Three bases-loaded walks and a hit batter led to four Hays runs in the fifth inning. A pair of errors in the top of the seventh led to three more Lark runs.

Matt Cavanaugh and Max McGuire each had two hits and two RBIs for Hays. Sean Cooper had two hits with an RBI.

The All-Stars used five pitchers with starter Jacob Merithew taking the loss.

Hays will play at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Hobart-Detter Field in Hutchinson against the Houston MVP Prospects. Kansas City will play Lonestar Baseball loser at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Hutchinson.

Hays Lark pitcher Wyatt Divis throws against the Kansas City All-Stars, an 18U team, on the opening night of the 76th National Baseball Congress World Series.