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Santoscoy off to good start for Tigers

By CONOR NICHOLL
cnicholl@dailynews.net

In the top of the second inning Tuesday, Fort Hays State University senior second baseman Chris Santoscoy ranged far to his left in the hole between first and second base on a ground ball hit by Washburn University shortstop Dakota Kell.

The ball hopped up, but Santoscoy dove, stopped the grounder and made the play to first, part of a doubleheader sweep of the Ichabods at Larks Park.

“One of the best plays that I have seen a college second baseman ever make,” Tiger coach Steve Johnson said.
However, after the play, Santoscoy was slow to recover. Johnson came out to the field and checked on the four-year starter.

Santoscoy had injured his hamstring in the season-opening series against Metropolitan State University of Denver two weeks ago.

Fortunately, Santoscoy hurt himself on the fall rather than injuring the hamstring.

He stayed in the game, and batting second, finished 1 of 4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored.

“The hammy is coming along, almost to 100 percent,” Santoscoy said.

For the last four springs, Santoscoy’s steady defense, solid offense and strong everyday play have been consistent in multiple Tiger infields.

“The one thing that you are always going to get with him is defense,” Johnson said.

This year, Fort Hays has started 5-4, 2-3 MIAA,and will travel to University of Central Oklahoma (1-2, 1-2  MIAA) for a three-game series this weekend. The series starts with a noon doubleheader Saturday.

“We thought we were going to miss him with a hamstring deal,” Johnson said. “We would have been fine, but maybe lose a lot of range. Lose a lot of outs when he is not out there. He is a solid guy. Then, when he has his moments offensively, he can spark us, too.”

This season, the Tigers have new starters at first, shortstop and third base. Ryan Busboom, a first team All-American in left field last spring, moved to first base, the position he played in the summer for the Hays Larks. Senior Sam Thornton has played shortstop for the first time in his Tiger career. Thornton carries a .344 average while batting ninth, and has mixed some inconsistency (eight errors) with several sparkling plays.

“Errors are part of the game,” Johnson said. “They are going to be made. Sam has got a little yippy at short, but his hands and feet are there. He is going to be fine.”

Senior Kelton Rule has started at third base. He was the starting shortstop as a freshman and played some at shortstop as a sophomore. Then, Rule caught last year before he moved back to the infield. He carries a .289 average with two homers and seven RBIs with five errors.

“Sam is new,” Santoscoy said. “He is a very good shortstop. He can get to most balls even though right now maybe he is struggling a little bit, but that is mostly just mental stuff. He is capable of playing perfectly fine. Kelton, he makes all the plays. It works fine. I like playing with them because it makes easier for everybody else just knowing they can make all the plays.”

Santoscoy, from Albuquerque, has started virtually every game of his career. As a freshman, he played in 52 of a possible 53 games with 51 starts (49 at second base). He batted eighth or ninth 42 times and hit second nine times with a .281 average.

As a sophomore, he made all 44 of his starts at second base — and in the No. 9 hole with a .331 average. Last year, he played in 44 games with 38 starts. He batted ninth every game,  and had 37 starts at second base with a .273 average.

This spring, Santoscoy has moved to the No. 2 hole, a spot he batted in summer ball. He carries a .267 average this season. Santoscoy sometimes sees more offspeed pitches batting second rather than eighth or ninth, but has liked the change.

“I just have more confidence,” he said.

Santoscoy has fielded consistently every year with fielding percentages of .966, .966, .958 and no errors this spring. Santoscoy said the play to his left is one he has improved on over time.

“I am able to make those plays easier than I was as a freshman,” he said.He has developed a strong glove through staying “on my toes” during repetitions in practice and pregame.