The Fort Hays State University baseball team is starting to see some batters heat up at the plate to help the Tigers make some strides offensively.
Even so, Fort Hays couldn’t match the production of Northeastern State's lineup in Thursday’s doubleheader, with the RiverHawks handing FHSU 13-9 and 15-7 losses at Larks Park.
NSU had a combined 38 hits and clubbed eight home runs to take the first two game of the series.
“You get down in the count in this park and you get them up in the air, they’re going to leave the yard,” FHSU coach Steve Johnson said. “Two big innings in particular just killed us.”
One of those innings was the sixth in the first game, when NSU hit four homers to put up a six-run frame and take a 10-4 lead. In the nightcap, the RiverHawks pulled away from the Tigers with a five-run fifth to open a 10-1 advantage.
FHSU starter Ben Ramberg went four-plus innings to take a no-decision in the first game, allowing four runs on seven hits with five walks and three strikeouts. In the nightcap, Ryan Ruder allowed 10 runs in four-plus innings, giving up 13 hits.
“(Ramberg) got off to a good start, but he really pitch-counted himself, even though he battled,” Johnson said. “He was pitch-counted up to the 80s in three innings and that’s not what we needed today. We needed to get more innings to give a bullpen that threw quite a bit (in Wednesday’s 26-17 loss to Nebraska-Kearney) some relief. We were down to just a couple guys that weren’t real fresh.
“I thought the zone (in the second game) was pretty tight, quite honestly, and that doesn’t suit very well with Ryan Ruder as the starter. He’s a mix three-pitch guy. He needs the corners. But I thought it was tight both ways. I thought their pitcher got squeezed some, too.”
Northeastern State scored three runs to open the first game, doing all of its damage with two outs. Tristan Ridenour had a two-run triple and scored on a single by Jaxon Phipps. FHSU got on the board in the bottom of the first after Addison Kaasch doubled and came around to score on Alex Weiss’ sac fly.
The RiverHawks added a run in the bottom of the third but Fort Hays grabbed the lead with four runs in the bottom of the frame, highlighted by Jordan Wilkerson’s three-run home run over the scoreboard in right field.
The Tigers (13-25, 5-19 MIAA) maintained the one-run lead until the RiverHawks teed off in the sixth inning, clubbing four homers for six runs to open up a 10-4 lead. Eric Espinoza tied the game at 5 with a solo shot off Easton Palmer, who took the loss for FHSU. Colton Wright, Reid Fehr and Michael Rhea then smashed back-to-back-to-back home runs off Cody Rottinghaus to give the Riverhawks control.
Ryan Grasser had a three-run homer for the Tigers in the ninth before NSU (20-16, 11-12 MIAA) recorded the last three outs to end it. Dayton Pomeroy had four hits for FHSU while Weiss and Grasser had three.
FHSU fought back from the 10-1 deficit in the nightcap to make it a five-run game after Weiss homered for the second time on the day. However, NSU broke away again with a five-run sixth.
Clayton Basgall had a three-hit game for the Tigers, who came up with 15 hits in each game.
“We had some guys that really swung it well,” Johnson said. “Addison Kaasch swung it well. I thought Alex Weiss had a really nice day today; he’s really starting to heat up the last week or so. But too many momentum killing ABs mixed in there. We still have innings where there’s more out there to get, and that’s when we’re getting the bad AB, the big strikeout. We don’t put the ball in play, we don’t move the runner. That’s what we got continue to get better at.”
The Tigers will close out the series against the RiverHawks at 2 p.m. Friday at Larks Park.