By EARL WATT
• Daily Leader
Threatening clouds passed harmlessly overhead for the first seven innings in Wednesday’s game between the Liberal Bee Jays and Hays Larks.
But it wouldn’t be rain that would send the fans running for shelter in the eighth inning, it was straight line winds that reached 77 miles per hour that dumped debris onto Brent Gould Field and shut the lights out on the stadium and most of Liberal.
The hard winds blew just long enough to allow Hays to break a 4-4 tie when a Hays batter sent what would normally would have been a single to the wall which allowed a runner to score on a double. The game was called after that play.
Players began to head to the dugout when large plumes of dirt cascaded over the right field fence and limbs started to fall on the field.
Fans headed to the parking lot in the dark when the large lights at Brent Gould Field fell dark moments after Hays scored the go-ahead run.
Hats, sunglasses, programs and more were twisting in the gusts. Some were retrieved, some weren’t.
Prior to the tempest passing over the field caused the game to be suspended, a game littered with nine errors between Liberal and Hays took place for seven innings, and despite the Bee Jay miscues Liberal had battled back from a 4-1 deficit to tie the game in the seventh prior to the wind-aided go-ahead hit by Hays in the top of the eighth.
For the second straight game Hays took a lead in the top of the first with a two-run homer aided by an Aaron Mees error that allowed a runner on base before the blistering shot off Liberal starting pitcher Austin Robson.
The Bee Jays had a shot at a big inning in the first when Mees reached on a lead-off error, and Kelby Tomlinson also made it to base when the Hays shortstop could not come up with a routine play. But Mees was thrown out at third trying to stretch from first on the dribbler into left field.
After Richard Bohlken popped out, Liberal’s next three batters were walked, which forced Tomlinson home to make the score 2-1.
But the bases were left loaded when Nick Cocking grounded out.
Another promising inning ended with no runs in the third when the Bee Jays led off with a single, and an error by Hays at first allowed another Bee Jay to reach base while Blake Bergeron took second.
With Liberal’s David Masters at the plate, Hays pitcher Cory Jordan threw the ball over the catcher’s head, and Bergeron headed to third. But the ball was so high, it missed the padded backstop and hit the metal crossbar at the top and ricocheted right back to the Hays catcher. He threw Bergeron out at third to end the inning.
Hays added to their lead in the fourth, this time aided by two Bee Jay errors that put the Larks ahead 4-1.
Masters led off with a triple for the Bee Jays in the fourth and scored on a Mark Gomez single.
Liberal took advantage of a Hays error in the bottom of the seventh when Bohlken hit a smash to the shortstop who could not make a throw.
A double and a sacrifice allowed Bohlken to score to cut the lead to 4-3 and moved Bergeron to third. Sam Konnoff hit a slow roller toward the mound, and the pitcher opted for a play at the plate. Bergeron collided with the Hays catcher and was called out and then ejected from the game for not attempting to slide.
But another Hays error on the first baseman allowed Masters to reach and the tying run scored.
That’s when the high winds rolled through in the top of the eighth, and Hays reclaimed the lead 5-4 when the game was suspended.
It is expected to resume at that point July 6 when the Larks return to Liberal.
The Bee Jays will play their first road games of the season beginning Friday at Haysville. Games will be broadcast on Talkradio 1270 AM.