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Tigers' Holub experimenting with new grips

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University senior ace right-hander Maddie Holub sometimes tinkers with grips and pitches in the bullpen. Last year, she was forced to make a couple of adjustments because she kept ripping off skin on her right index finger.

This spring, Holub has delivered All-American worthy numbers at the plate and in the circle despite having some skin issues again.

"A lot of times it will get blood on the ball," Holub said.

Last weekend, Holub played with the finger padded in a road doubleheader at Washburn University. She still earned MIAA Pitcher of the Week honors for the third time this year.

"I tuck all of my pitches, so it rips against the leather and it's about three or four layers deep right now, and it's really tender and so that's where the playing with grips comes into play," Holub, the team's lone senior, said. "I am trying to throw my pitches the same way, but holding the ball different, so that it doesn't rip."

Holub, 12-0 with a 0.80 earned-run average, wasn't as dominant as she usually is in two road doubleheaders this week in Colorado. On Tuesday, she still earned two wins at Colorado Christian, but allowed four runs, all earned, in seven innings.

She played left field, but didn't pitch as the Tigers split two games with Metropolitan State University on Wednesday.

Holub, the Tiger leader in multiple offensive categories, carries a FHSU-best .448 average with 11 homers and 28 RBIs. Freshman Paxton Duran and junior Jordan Jones handled the pitching as the Tigers won Game 1, 8-1, and lost Game 2, 6-4. Duran won the first contest when she worked five innings of one-run ball.

In Game 2, Holub hit a two-run homer, but Duran took the loss when she permitted six hits and four runs (two earned) in 4.1 innings.

Fort Hays, previously ranked No. 21 in NCAA Division II, moved up 10 spots to No. 11 when the new poll was released Wednesday afternoon. This year marks the first time the Tigers have ever been ranked in top-25.

Fort Hays stands at 22-4 overall and 19-1 against in-region teams. The loss ended the Tigers' school record nine-game winning streak, passing the old mark of eight set in 1999, 2003 and '05.

Brinkmann returns

Junior shortstop Danie Brinkmann collected honorable mention all-MIAA honors and started all 52 games for the Tigers two years ago after she transferred from NCAA Division I Creighton (Neb.) University. She batted .323 with a .427 on-base percentage with 12 doubles.

Last year, Brinkmann suffered a rotator cuff injury in winter workouts. She was supposed to be cleared to throw on the day of the season opener, Feb. 14. However, Brinkmann then broke her ankle when she slid into third base in a preseason scrimmage. She took a medical redshirt and spent the season watching from the dugout.

"A calamity of injuries," she said.

This spring, Brinkmann carries a .342 average with 10 extra base hits, including three homers and 14 RBIs. She has committed just three errors and started every game at third base. Junior Kellsi Olsen, who took over for Brinkmann last season at shortstop, has remained at shortstop this spring.

"I never doubted for a second that she would come back just as strong, if not stronger," second-year coach Erin Kinberger said. "I think she is such a learner of the game. When she was in the dugout, it broke her heart. It was hard to sit there and watch, but she didn't just sit there and sulk in it. She sat there and watched the game and watched what the coaching staff was telling her teammates and she at the end of the year, she was like, 'It was mind-blowing to sit there and see what you guys are saying.'"

Brinkmann said that it's "been tough" to have the same range in the field she had before the ankle injury. However, Brinkmann said the time away from the game has given her "definite advantage" in the field.

"I am focusing more on the little things that the batter would be doing if you are hitting it a certain direction, opening up to hit it to third base, or stuff like that," she said.

Beltz playing

well at first base

The Tigers lost just two seniors from last year's squad. One of those, first baseman Adriana Wortley, was a two-time all-South Central Region Selection as a sophomore and junior and was all-MIAA honorable mention and conference defensive player of the year last season.

However, freshman Tori Beltz, a Rose Hill product, has stepped in and played well.

"Augie is a great player, Tori is coming in just as strong," Holub said. "Tori is a great girl. She is learning a lot. She is improving a lot and she will be really good there. Plus, she has got a stick. Tori can hit the ball. She is very comforting there. I trust her there completely."

Beltz is batting .301 with two homers and 13 RBIs, including a big homer versus Washburn.

"Tori Beltz is unbelievable power," Kinberger said.

"She has been a great recruit. She also was recruited Division I and I got her and again the glove fit, but what Tori showed this weekend is what Tori Beltz has always been capable of before she came to Fort Hays. Freshman, just got to get in, get your feet wet a little bit and now, it took that one hit and now, she is right where I have been telling everybody she was going to be."