By EARL WATT
• Daily Leader
Stinging from falling short in Game 1 on a controversial call at the plate that ended the game 6-5 in favor of Derby, the Liberal Bee Jays responded in Game 2 with a dominating six innings of pitching from Brett Davis to earn a 6-2 win and another split series for the Bee Jays.
Liberal broke open a 2-2 tie in the sixth when John Haines earned a walk and scored on an RBI double by Reid Redman.
Dylan Brown then walked, and an error by Derby’s second baseman allowed Torrey Jacoby to reach and score Redman.
After Tanner Rindels was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Brown scored on a passed ball, and Mitch Caster ended the scoring with a sacrifice that scored Jacoby that gave the Bee Jays a 6-2 lead.
Caster took the mound in the top of the seventh and knocked out the Twins in order, including a smash back to the mound that Caster knocked down with his glove at his chest, picked up, and tossed out the Twin.
The win kept Liberal’s split record in series in tact. So far, the Bee Jays have split every multiple game series of the season.
The Bee Jays dropped the opener after having a 3-2 lead midway through the game.
After falling behind 6-5, the Bee Jays had a chance to tie the game when Rindels slid home in the bottom of the seventh in a seven-inning game. A high throw appeared to be enough for Rindels to make it to the plate in time, but the home plate umpire called Rindels out to end the Bee Jay threat in the 6-5 loss.
The win in Game 2 was critical in the first half of the season to keep a three-team race at the top of the Jayhawk League between El Dorado, Derby and Liberal.
Redman’s RBI double in the sixth turned out to be the game winner.
“We needed it,” Redman said. “Especially after the way we lost the first one. We had some good pitching from Brett (Davis).”
While the Bee Jays are 4-4 against the two top teams in the Jayhawk League, Davis said the Bee Jays are capable of competing for the league title.
“We haven’t played up to our potential,” Redman said. “We still have some time to put it all together. This was such a big win.”
Liberal has found a closer in Caster. The hard-throwing right hander has found his role coming in to record the final outs. When the starter can throw all but the final inning, the Bee Jays have been able to close the door.
It’s the middle relief where the Bee Jays are continuing to seek consistency.
The Bee Jays are still shorthanded in the bullpen.
“It’s taken us a couple of weeks to get a pitching routine down,” Redman said. “We will be in good shape when we can be more consistent and compete better.”
But coach Mike Hargrove isn’t ready to start placing the pressure of the entire season on each game.
“We have to play them one game at a time,” he said. “We have to out and try to win every game. The other things will take care of themselves. I thought we had won the first game. When we didn’t it was important to win the second one. We had a key double play that got us out of the first inning. They had a lefty that threw a lot of curves, and it took us some time to adjust. By the sixth, it paid off.”
Liberal will travel to El Dorado for a two-game series today and Wednesday.
If the Bee Jays can string together back-to-back wins, they would be one game out of first place in the Jayhawk League at about the midway point of the conference season with 11 of the remaining 17 league games against Hays and Dodge City, the two teams currently at the bottom of the standings.
The Bee Jays will return to Brent Gould Field Thursday for five straight non-league games against the Colorado Bombers (three games) and the Colorado Renegades (two games). All games are free courtesy local sponsors.