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Tigers' Busboom making presence felt

Published on -4/12/2012, 10:04 AM

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By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University baseball coach Steve Johnson likes junior left fielder Ryan Busboom's short, simplistic swing. More than anything, Johnson likes Busboom's consistency.

"He has got a lot of confidence right now," Johnson said. "If he does have a bad AB, you usually don't see two or three in a row. He usually responds and has a big AB after that."

Busboom, a Barton County Community transfer, has emerged as one of the MIAA's -- and NCAA Division II's -- top hitters. He leads Fort Hays with a .398 average, 11 homers and 44 RBIs and is on pace to possibly become the Tigers' first All-American since first baseman Dusty Washburn in 2007.

Busboom, the reigning MIAA Hitter of the Week, ranks fifth in the country in RBIs per game and eighth in home runs per contest. He leads the conference in both statistics.

Fort Hays is first in the MIAA in batting average, runs scored, doubles per game, homers per game and slugging percentage.

In Division II, the Tigers stand in the top-14 in all five statistics, including ninth in batting average, fourth in homers per contest and sixth in slugging percentage, in the most recent release of statistics.

"Got a great bunch of teammates that have helped me get used to the higher level," he said. "I like it a lot here, it's a lot of fun, a great group of guys."

Busboom's and Fort Hays' offense have helped the Tigers bounce back from a 2-10 start. FHSU enters this weekend's home series against Truman State (Mo.) University at 16-16 overall, 14-13 MIAA, fifth-best in the league.

That includes a 10-6 home record. The Bulldogs are 10-22, 9-19 MIAA.

"He is not doing it when it doesn't count," Johnson said. "He is doing it when it counts. That's the sign of a good hitter."

Friday is the Tigers' annual "Pack the Park" event at Larks Park. Senior left-hander Shawn Lewick (4-2, 3.53 earned-run average) is the Tigers' probable starter. Start time is 7 p.m. followed by a doubleheader Saturday and a single game Sunday.

Free admission is granted for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, season ticket holders and Tiger students with their student ID. All other adult admission is $2.

CASA of the High Plains is sponsoring to event in in promotion of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. The theme is "blue" for the event, so fans of all ages are encouraged to wear blue to the event.

Gates at Larks Park will open at 5:30 pm. Concession specials for the evening include $1.50 hot dogs and hamburgers and select beverages will also be $1.50. Coolers are not allowed into Larks Park.

Busboom was one of the Tigers' top hitters in the fall, but was caught in a logjam at third base.

He moved to left field, where he took over for Anthony Salinas, who earned all-MIAA honors last season before he experienced arm problems this year. Salinas has moved into a part-time role at designated hitter.

Busboom, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound right-handed hitter from Cortland, Neb., learned his compact swing from his dad. At Barton County, he collected first team all-conference Western Division honors at third base before he came to Fort Hays. At FHSU, Busboom has received help from assistant coach Jay Pitschka.

"Helping me stay short and stay up the middle," Busboom said.

Busboom has a hit in five of his last six games, including a 2-for-4 performance against Pittsburg State University on April 7. He struggled early in the game, but then responded late with a homer and a double in a comeback win.

"Early on in that game, he had a couple bad ABs, but after he saw the guy a couple of times, he had got his approach back and got two of the bigger hits to get us going," Johnson said.

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