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SPOTLIGHT
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Krol, Tigers great at home

Published on -4/23/2012, 10:11 AM

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By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

On April 17, the Fort Hays State University baseball team defeated University of Nebraska-Kearney, 12-8, at Larks Park. Senior designated hitter/second baseman Mace Krol finished 3-for-4 with a home run, a double and four RBIs.

The offensive output, while explosive, was no different than many other home contests for the Tigers and Krol this season. Fort Hays has produced a 22-19 record (19-16 MIAA), but is a much stronger offensive team at home than on the road.

The Tigers, 13-8 at home this season, will finish the year with seven straight home games as they look to capture a MIAA conference tournament bid and stay in possible contention for an NCAA Division II tournament berth. The final stretch starts with a contest versus NAIA Bethany College on Tuesday. Game time is 7 p.m.

"It's fun playing in this park," Krol, a first-year transfer from NCAA Division I Nicholls State (La.) University, said. "The park I played in last year wasn't quite like this one. When you hit a ball here, you think it has a chance."

Larks Park, traditionally known as a hitters' ballpark, measures 319 feet down the right field line, 322 feet down the left field line and 349 feet in the power alleys. In center field, the ballpark measures 405 feet.

Krol, a switch hitter who mainly bats from the left side, has taken advantage of the short porch in right field.

"Not too deep, except not in center," Krol said. "Just keep in down the lines. It's a good park to play in. I like coming out here every day."

At home, he is batting .315 with a .700 slugging percentage and has eight homers and 21 RBIs.

On the road, Krol carries a .298 average, .405 slugging percentage, one homer and 12 RBIs. Krol's only road homer came in the season-opening series against West Texas A&M University in late February.

"Mace, in all honesty, he can be hit or miss," senior shortstop Sheldon Howell said. "He has a really, really smooth swing. When he gets his work done and stays true to how he knows how to swing and doesn't get into his own head, he is a phenomenal hitter. He can hit to both sides of the park with power and he is a big bat in our lineup and struggling a little this year at times. You can't take him out, because at any moment, he can be that guy that could put it over the wall."

As a team, the Tigers are hitting .360 with a .579 slugging percentage at Larks Park. As well, FHSU averages 8.6 runs per game and hits a homer every 23.4 at-bats at home.

On the road, Fort Hays has a .300 average and .422 slugging percentage. The team averages 6.1 runs per game and hits a homer every 46.5 at-bats.

The home production has helped the Tigers rank fourth in the nation in homers per game, sixth in slugging percentage, 14th in batting average and 18th in doubles per game in the most recent statistical release. In addition, Larks Park has helped Krol turn his career around.

"Offensively, we just trust each other, one through nine, everyone knows that we can get the job done," Krol said. "You just step up and do your part when it's your turn."

Krol, a Nickerson High School graduate, originally wanted to play for current Tiger coach Steve Johnson, then at Butler County Community College. Krol ended up going to Hutchinson Community College and then transferred to Nicholls, where he batted .196 with no homers and 11 RBIs.

"Didn't have a good of a time down at Nicholls last year, so (Johnson) is one of the first people that I called looking for a place to play, I figured he would take me," Krol said.

Krol has helped the Tigers improve on their offense under Johnson, now in his second season at Fort Hays. Last season, Fort Hays finished 51st nationally in average (.311), 43rd in homers per game (0.63), 36th in slugging percentage (.454) and 20th in doubles/per game (2.14).

This year, Fort Hays carries a .331 average and a .512 slugging percentage. The Tigers have averaged 1.05 homers and 2.30 doubles per game.

Krol has a .306 average with nine homers, second-most on the squad, and 33 RBIs, third-most. The homer against Kearney was similar to many Krol has hit at home this year. Against a strong wind, Krol crushed an offering well over the scoreboard in right-center field.

"I ran into one," Krol said. "Happens every once in awhile."

However, at home, homers and RBIs have happened often.

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