By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
The Liberal Bee Jays took advantage of two Dodge City A’s errors to take a 4-0 lead and used another Dodge City error in the eighth inning to add two insurance runs in a 7-4 win in the Jayhawk League opener for the Bee Jays Thursday night at Brent Gould Field.
Austin King ran into trouble in the fifth inning after using two double plays to get out of jams earlier.
Dodge City quickly cut into Liberal’s 4-0 lead in the fifth with a run, and a deep shot to left field had the distance for a home run, but Alec Isaac leaped into the air, and his glove went over the outfield fence and came back with the ball to deny the home run.
But the A’s continued to reach base in the inning, and King could have ended the A’s rally at 4-2 when a grounder hit to third was fielded by Brady Cox and he appeared to tag Brennan Bozeman who was attempting to advance to third. Bozeman was called safe, and the A’s added two more runs before the inning was over and chased King off the mound.
But the Bee Jay bullpen continued to deny key hits, and the A’s did not score again the rest of the night.
The Bee Jays used a double steal in the bottom of the sixth, and while Patrick Kulick was in a rundown between first and second, Bryson Allen came home to score the go-ahead and eventual winning run.
The Bee Jays added two more runs in the bottom of the eighth thanks to an A error at second.
Dodge City had the tying run at the plate, but a foul tip strike was caught by catcher Justin McCarty to preserve the 7-4 win.
“The defensive side was remarkable,” Bee Jay head coach Adam Anderson said. “Alec (Isaac) made the big catch there in the inning when they scored four runs. It killed a little of their momentum. All the way around we made great plays in the field. Brandon Cox at third, (Kyle) Lieser at short — pitchers love that. They know their team will make plays behind them, so it gives them confidence on the mound. It was remarkable to see those guys play defense the way they did.
The Bee Jays have been outhit in their last two games. Against Dodge, the A’s outhit Liberal 14-9. But the Bee Jays are getting the hits with runners in scoring position which has been a key to the early success.
“Our offense is doing a great job,” Anderson said. “We have a disciplined approach at the plate. We took walks when they gave them, took, and we took advantage of their errors. When the big inning presents itself, get the runs. It was great to see hitters stick with their approach.”
While the first four games resulted in wins, Thursday’s Jayhawk League match-up didn’t have the same laid-back feel to it.
“Intensity picked up on both sides,” Anderson said. “Dodge City brought intensity, and our guys responded. We talked before the game about intensity and being more upbeat. Our guys did a good job, they stayed loose, they picked up the intensity, and that carried us throughout the game.”
Liberal will travel to Derby today to start a three-game series with the Twins. After that, Liberal travels to Hays for a pair with the Larks.
“When you get on the road, it’s a totally different scenario,” Anderson said. “We have to learn the field as quickly as we can. Every field is different, it plays different. We have to learn that field and make ourselves comfortable.
Anderson was an assistant last year and is familiar with the facilities in Derby and Hays.
“One thing about Derby, the grass is longer, it plays a little slower,” Anderson said. “We have to be aggressive on defense and offense. They roll around in the grass, so we have to take some extra bases. It is a small field that plays big. We don’t need to get caught up with the numbers on the fence. We need to stick with our approach, hit the balls hard, and see what happens.
Tonight’s game begins in Derby at 7 p.m.