By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
Winning at Haysville has been no easy task for the Bee Jays since the Hear moved form Havasu in the deserts of Arizona to the outskirts of Wichita.
Over the weekend, the Bee Jays were able to take two out of three from the Heat.
“We were one play and one pitch away from winning all three,” Liberal manager Brandon Kitch said.
After winning the first two games of the series, the Bee Jays were in a tussle in the final game Sunday when Stephen Gandy had a ball bounce off the heel of his glove in right field. Two Haysville runners scored on the play.
“Gandy makes that play nine times out of 10,” Kitch said. “I trust him. He does a great job for us, it just kicked off the heel of his glove.”
Cale Russell also had a chance to get out of a jam with Heat runners on first and third.
“A pitch just go away from him,” Kitch said. “The hitter put it in the outfield.”
That allowed the go-ahead run to score in the seventh, and the Bee Jays couldn’t respond in the 7-6 loss.
According to Kitch, either one of those plays could have allowed the Bee jays to sweep the series.
But taking two out of three was still an accomplishment at what has been a tough place for the Bee Jays to play.
“I was happy for us and the organization,” Kitch said. “Taking two out of three is really good.”
After the series, the Bee Jays are 3-3 in the Jayhawk League and have a chance to move up when the long road trip continues Tuesday at Hays.
The Larks have shot out to a 4-1 start and lost their first league game Sunday against El Dorado, 11-5.
Liberal had a chance to defeat Hays June 5 after jumping out to a 7-1 lead, but the Larks scored nine unanswered runs to win 10-7.
“We had Hays down the first time we played them,” Kitch said. “We let that one get away from us. We are a different team since we played them. We have some guys that can minimize their offense. They swing the bats pretty good. I like their team. It is going to be a battle.”
Kitch will put Dalton Bernardi on the mound, and Kitch is expecting him to be able to keep the Larks batters out of a rhythm.
He will follow up with Chad Nack on Wednesday.
“I think he can keep their hitters of balance,” Kitch said. “We will see what happens. Chad Nack will go on Wednesday. I like that kid. The ball jumps out of his hand.”
Since dropping back-to-back league games to Dodge City and Hays, the Bee Jays have won two out of three, and Kitch said that the turnaround is a testament to the character of the team.
“I’m proud of how we competed,” he said. “Some teams lay down, and I don’t think this team has that mentality. They have the competitiveness that they want to win, no matter how many runs we’re down.” We show up and compete.
Liberal has a chance to make up the one-and-a-half games they trail first-place Hays with a sweep of the two-game set, and while there are still 28 games to go on the league schedule, it’s never too early to keep an eye on the league standings.
“I was thinking about that last night,” Kitch said. “I try not to look at that, but I think everybody does. Every coach looks at the record. I think Hays is the team to beat.”