By CONOR NICHOLL
Junior right-hander Tyler Patty had posted several good starts for Fort Hays State University this season, but had often ran into trouble in the fourth and fifth innings.
"He will get frustrated or he will try to do too much himself and overthrow, and it's resulted in some negative moments," Tiger coach Steve Johnson said.
On Friday night, Patty allowed just one run in the fourth after a leadoff triple, worked a perfect fifth and left the bases loaded in a scoreless sixth. With one on and one out in the seventh, Patty gave up a game-tying, two-run homer to right-center field to Emporia State University junior left fielder Price Jacobs.
Fort Hays eventually lost 8-6 against the Hornets on the annual "Pack the Park" night at Larks Park.
"I thought we did a real good job of the way we pitched him, and it just didn't work out for us," Patty said.
Fort Hays' starting pitchers had struggled throughout a difficult spring. Entering Friday night, FHSU's starters, virtually all in their first season in Hays, were a collective 3-13 with an 8.49 earned-run average. Starters averaged just under four innings an outing.
No starter had worked more than six innings in a game. Fort Hays had just one quality start (at least six innings, no more than three earned runs) in its first 24 contests.
Patty eventually worked 6.1 innings and allowed five runs on nine hits with nine strikeouts against two walks. It marked the longest outing and most strikeouts by a FHSU starter.
"Our team just really needed a good start," Patty said. "I wanted to go out there and throw up as many zeroes and low scores as I could to keep us in the game."
Fort Hays took a 5-3 lead entering the seventh against ESU junior starter Shawn Talkington (4-2). Senior first baseman Horace Johnson homered in the second and then delivered a two-run blast in the fourth. On the next pitch, junior third baseman Kevin Czarnecki homered.
In the seventh, Patty allowed a leadoff double to senior shortstop Toby Cornejo and coaxed a strikeout. Johnson visited Patty, who finished with 122 pitches (79 strikes), but kept the right-hander in the game.
"It's something that I used to do a lot of, and I know sometimes if you can just have a 45-60 second breather just to kind of regroup and face the next guy, it can revitalize you," Johnson said.
On a 1-1 count, Jacobs hit a fly ball to right-center field. On Friday, the wind was blowing out at Larks Park, which traditionally causes balls in right-center to keep traveling. This one cleared the fence and tied the game at five.
"It's a shame how they tied it," Johnson said. "Yeah, the ball was blowing out here tonight, but that's a well-placed changeup that the guy just happened to throw the barrel on and hit it to the exact right part of the park."
Senior right-hander Nathan Briar (1-1) relieved Patty after the blast and issued a walk and then a two-run homer to center field from sophomore first baseman Aaron Gile.
"Disappointing, but when things aren't going well, you are always going to sit back and second guess yourself," Johnson said. "We have to learn how to find ways to win ballgames."
Emporia State 4, FHSU 1
FHSU 7, Emporia State 6
The Tigers split a doubleheader with the Hornets on Saturday. Fort Hays lost the first game, 4-1, and won the second contest, 7-6, to end an eight-game home losing streak to Emporia that dated back to a 3-0 victory on March 6, 2010.
In Game 1, Steven Federau took the loss. Nick Hammeke drove in the Tigers' lone run on a single in the second inning.
In Game 2, FHSU had two runs in the first, third and fifth and one in the second. Sophomore Austin Unrein worked 5.2 innings, allowed 10 hits and five earned runs with no strikeouts and two walks for the victory and junior Gabe Cook had the save. FHSU had four extra-base hits, three doubles and a triple and third baseman Kevin Czarnecki drove in three runs.