By EARL WATT
• Daily Leader
When Aaron Mees hit a home run that scored two runs in the bottom of the second inning to give the Bee Jays a 4-1 lead, he provided the momentum the Bee Jays needed to go on to a 12-5 win over Derby Friday night at Brent Gould Field.
He did it without trying.
“I wasn’t trying to hit it out,” Mees said. “It’s nice it went over the fence. It gave us a boost.”
The win kept the Bee Jays perfect at 6-0 and kept them at the top of the Jayhawk League standings, albeit only the second league game of the year.
Still, for a team that historically plays better at the end of the season than the beginning, the win was a good sign.
“It’s a great sign,” Mees said. “Derby has the best pitching we’ve seen so far, and our hitters stayed hot.”
The hitters made up for an early 1-0 deficit in the bottom of the first inning when a Richard Bohlken sacrifice fly scored Mees to tie the game.
After giving up a run in the first, Bee Jay starting pitcher John Niggli settled in and pitched four innings of shutout baseball.
Niggli benefitted from a strong defense. Bee Jay outfielder Joe Vaskas made a diving catch to steal a scoring threat from the Twins, and Bohlken made another diving stop on a rocket down the third base line.
“We have really good athletes in the field,” Mees said. “It gives our pitchers and hitters confidence. Our defense will help us win in the end.”
That defense coupled with strong pitching from Niggli helped the Bee Jays build a 7-1 lead before the Twins were able to score a single run in the sixth inning.
“I wanted to improve on my last outing,” Niggli said. “I wanted to throw more strikes and get ahead in the count. Our guys will always put up runs for me.”
Those runs kept coming for the relief pitchers as well. Even with a 7-2 lead, the Bee Jays continued to pour out hits.
Newcomer Kyle Borden highlighted the latter innings with a three-run blast over the left center field fence. The University of Rhode Island designated hitter hadn’t batted for weeks.
“I knew he would bring a fast ball on a 2-1 count,” Borden said. “We had a couple of ducks on, and I needed to get them in.” Borden’s home run gave the Bee Jays a 12-2 lead.
The Bee Jays surrendered three runs in the ninth, two of them when catcher Mike McCarthy tried to pick off a runner at third but hit the runner instead and the ball rolled to foul territory in left field.
Liberal faced Derby late Saturday evening and will play them again at 7 p.m. tonight at Brent Gould Field.
Liberal is off to its best start in more than a decade at 6-0.