By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
After winning six straight at Brent Gould Field to start the season, the Bee jays have dropped two in a row in their home park after two games over the weekend where the Bee Jays watched large leads slip away.
Liberal knocked off El Dorado Friday to start the series with promise, but an 11-inning affair that ended with a 14-13 loss followed by a 7-6 loss Sunday set the Bee Jays back in the standings and will require significant improvement in the win column to get back in the Jayhawk League race.
Fielding was the culprit Saturday, but despite the seven Bee Jay errors, Liberal still had a chance to win the game in the 10th inning.
After blowing a 10-4 lead, the Bee Jays were able to use a double steal in the seventh inning to tie the game, 13-13.
El Dorado failed to score in the ninth or 10th, and the Bee Jays loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the 10th, and a deep pop fly could have won the game.
Instead, the Bee Jays popped up on the infield for the first out, and then attempted a suicide squeeze on the next at-bat.
The batter missed the outside pitch with an attempted bunt, and the runner at third was caught in a rundown for the second out. Both runners were able to move up, but with two outs and an 0-2 count on the batter, El Dorado escaped the threat with a strike out to end the inning.
The Broncos were able to score an unearned run in the top of the 11th with howling winds, and the Bee Jays could not answer in the 14-13 loss.
Sunday would have a similar result.
Again, the Bee Jays jumped out to a quick lead by scoring four runs in the first inning and sending nine batters to the plate.
The Broncos were able to get one run back in the top of the second, but the Bee Jays responded with a run in the bottom of the second to take a 5-1 lead.
But the Bee Jay offense went cold while the Broncos continued to consistently get runners on base.
El Dorado added two more runs in the third inning to cut the Bee jay lead to 5-3 and added single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to tie the game, 5-5.
Liberal’s Tyler Wiedenfeld pitched the seventh, and after a lead-off single and a sacrifice bunt, Zach Fields hit a home run over the left field fence on a line drive shot that gave the Broncos a 7-5 lead.
The Bee Jays added a run in the bottom of the seventh when Seth Stevens hit a two-out RBI double to left field that scored Alec Isaac to cut the lead to 7-6, but the Bee Jays couldn’t get another run across the plate and lost 7-6.
The home losses widened the gap between the Bee Jays in the first-place Wellington Heat.
While the Bee Jays dropped a pair to the Broncos, the Heat went on the road and swept Hays to stay perfect on the season at 8-0 in the Jayhawk League and 14-0 overall.
Another road team had a successful weekend in Dodge City.
The Derby Twins took two out of three from the A’s and moved into a second-place tie with the Larks.
The Bee Jays will take today off and will return to Brent Gould Field Tuesday and Wednesday for a two-game set with Hays.
The Larks will be looking to snap their three-game losing streak, and the Bee Jays will be looking to end a two-game skid.
So far, the Bee Jays have been swept by Derby on the road in a three-game series, split with Hays on the road, dropped two out of three to El Dorado, and knocked off Dodge City in the two team’s only meeting so far.
After the two-game set with Hays, the Bee Jays will remain at Brent Gould Field Thursday for another single game with Dodge City.
The Bee Jays will return to the Wichita area Friday, Saturday and Sunday for a three-game series with first-place Wellington.
The Bee Jays would have to sweep Hays and defeat Dodge City to head to Wellington with a 6-6 record in Jayhawk League play.
If the Bee Jays could sweep Hays, that would put them within a half game of second.
El Dorado will play the Heat twice this week before the Bee jays make the trip to Wellington.
Other than the major miscues in the loss to El Dorado Saturday, the Bee Jays have been winning the battle of errors, but it has not been the errors that have been hurting the Bee Jays the past two nights. The Bee Jays have struggled on the mound both with starters and relievers, something that was a strength earlier in the season.
After starting 5-0 on the strength of pitching, the Bee Jays are 2-6 in their last eight games, and pitching has contributed to those losses.
For the Bee Jays to compete for the Jayhawk title, they will have to return to early season form on the mound.