Wichita – The Hayes Larks used another powerful throwback and two late home runs to defeat Liberal Bee Jays 6-2 in the semifinals of the 88th National Baseball Conference Friday night at Eck Stadium.
Garrett Groell fired Homer from two runs from the left field light pole to break the 2-2 tie at the top of the eighth inning. Palmer Hutchison hit his second teammate, also a two-round shot to the left in the ninth inning, to give Larks some insurance.
The Larks (38-9), who entered the bout with the lowest time slot in this year’s championship, got another great start this time from Ben Baker-Livingston. The New Mexico rookie allowed the two runs with three strokes and two walks over 5 2/3 innings. Sam Hendon (4-1) followed him with 1/3 goals without goals and won. Ben McLaughlin, who missed Thursday’s quarter-final match due to food poisoning, scored the last six matches to make his first block. McLaughlin hit three of the final four Liberals to send the Larks into the title match on Saturday night.
Liberal took the lead in the second half at home from Tessie Armstrong.
Larks scored two goals in the fourth to take the lead. Dylan Drilling hit a one-hit knockout and then scored a double by Garrett Growell. Liu Jiminian drove his car in a gruel with a two-way lining to the central square.
The Bee Jays (34-6) answered with a run at the bottom of the half on the field after one lead and a wild pitch to tie the game 2-2. They will only get two runners to score the rest of the way.
Ben McLaughlin opened the crucial eighth inning with a walk but was forced to exit second on a ball into second place by Drilling. Gruell followed his third home run of the season to give Hays the lead forever.
Jack Torosian doubled with two wins to top the ninth and then scored in the 11th Hutchison blast.
Larks won the season series with Liberal 3-2. They each went 1-1 at home during the regular season with the Bee Jays winning the Rocky Mountain Major League Baseball title in their last game at Larks Park on July 22.
Larks and Bee Jays now play 2-2 in matches played on the NBC World Series. The Larks won in 1996 but lost the title match in 2000 and in 2008.
Six o’clock magic
The Larks will face the Santa Barbara Forester in the title game Saturday at 7:00 p.m., as Santa Barbara, who has won the last two titles, beat Seattle Studs 9-2 in Friday’s second semifinal.
This is Larks’ sixth trip to the NBC World Series game, having lost in 2016, 2007, 2001, 2000 and 1995.