The Fort Hays State University baseball team was on the wrong end of what will go in the books as the final matchup in the all-time series between the Tigers and Nebraska-Kearney.
UNK, which will eliminate its baseball program at the conclusion of the season, grabbed the 190th and final meeting against FHSU with an 11-8 win over the Tigers on Wednesday night at Larks Park.
The Tigers (13-31, 5-25 MIAA) concluded the UNK series, which dates back to 1966, with a 130-60 record against the Lopers.
UNK (25-19, 18-12 MIAA) roughed up FHSU starter Zach Rothert for five runs in the first inning, with a grand slam from Scott Platt looming large the rest of the way.
FHSU coach Steve Johnson pointed to a missed opportunity on a ground ball that would have prevented the big inning.
“It’s the same thing that’s continued to plague us,” Johnson said. “The most routine double-play that you could ever get ends the inning and leaves it at 1-0. We speed up and don’t turn the double play and two hitters later make a mistake and it’s five to nothing.”
FHSU, losers of 10 straight, put up three runs in the fourth and later came within a run after freshman Dawson Sramek’s first career home run, a three-run shot that cut UNK’s lead to 9-8 in the sixth.
The Lopers added insurance in the eighth and ninth innings to go up three. The Tigers had the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth but UNK closer Eric Sandoz struck out Cody Starkel to end it.
Alex Ruxlow helped keep the Tigers in the game with a sold relief outing, giving up three runs in 4 1/3 innings.
“I thought we got a good relief appearance out of Alex Ruxlow,” Johnson said. “He gave us an opportunity to let (a comeback) happen.
“We get the home run from Dawson that really gets us back in it. We get a zero after that, and then come out in a one-run ball game and walk two guys to start the inning. Those runs change what you want to do and change the approach of the game. It's a never-ending cycle.”
Alex Weiss and Sramek each had two hits for FHSU. Ty Roseberry belted two home runs for UNK.
The Tigers will play host to Missouri Western this weekend for their final home conference series of the season. Friday's 7 p.m. game is Pack the Park night at Larks Park.