Tiger baseball opens MIAA play with Pitt State

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Senior right-hander Drew Martineau is one of the few returners for the Fort Hays State University baseball team. A year after having Tommy John surgery, Martineau endured a 2013 season when he went 0-0 with a 4.22 earned-run average in six appearances.

"That year after you have Tommy John surgery, it's a feeling out process," Tiger coach Steve Johnson said.

Last season, catcher Kodie Fewin barely played at Colby Community College because of a hand injury that forced him to take a medical redshirt. This spring, Fewin and Martineau, now healthy, have enjoyed a strong start for the Tigers, including good performances in a 6-3 FHSU victory against Pittsburg State University on Friday at Larks Park. The game was the home and MIAA opener for the Tigers.

"It was extremely well-played," Johnson said.

Martineau collected his first save as a Tiger with three innings of scoreless relief. He tossed just 27 pitches, 19 for strikes. Martineau, in his second season after he transferred from Barton County Community College, has worked 4.2 scoreless innings this spring. He took over for Steven Federau (1-0), who worked through six innings.

Drew "had some more issues in the fall, had to get a little more work done," Johnson said. "For the first time since he has probably been here, he feels good. He has always had the right attitude and the right approach. We needed that. We needed a guy to take the ball in that situation, and show no fear, and he certainly did that."

On Saturday, the Tigers and Gorillas split with PSU taking Game 1, 8-7, but FHSU won Game 2, 6-5 on a walk-off single.

Fewin went 2 of 4 with two solo homers Friday.

FHSU moved to 3-3, 2-1 MIAA, while Pittsburg State dropped to 2-4, 1-2 MIAA.

"He has still got a lot of maturing to do as a hitter, but I have been extremely pleased with him," Johnson said. "Probably one of our biggest question marks coming back was how were we going to be behind the plate. So far, he has really stuck his nose in it, and earned a lot of trust from the pitchers."

Last weekend, the Tigers opened 1-2 in a road series at Texas A&M-International with 4-3 and 6-5 losses and a 10-8 comeback victory. FHSU lost the first game after being down 3-0 and eventually lost it in extra innings.

"For being 1-2, I have never been prouder of a team and how they have played," Johnson said.

In Game 2, a call on a ball in the outfield went against the Tigers. In the third contest, FHSU lost a 6-0 lead, but came back and won.

"We catch a ball in the outfield that was essentially probably going to end the game," Johnson said. "Instead, we lose it 6-5, but the character of the kids, they are intelligent enough to understand that we played well."

On Friday, the Tigers trailed 3-1 entering the bottom of the fifth after the Gorillas scored three in the top of the fifth. FHSU scored four runs in the bottom of the inning and then another run in the sixth. Fewin homered with one out for the first run of the fifth. Clayton Garland delivered a RBI double. Alex King had a run-scoring single and Horace Johnson drove in a run with a double.

"Top to bottom, we have got 12, 13 guys that you can plug in there," Johnson said.

Saturday

The Tigers split its home doubleheader Saturday against Pittsburg State. FHSU lost the first game, 8-7, and won the second contest, 6-5. Fort Hays is now 3-3 overall, 2-1 in MIAA play and 1-3 in 1-run games.

FHSU trailed 8-2 in the fourth before it came back. Gabe Cook homered and Clayton Garland had a run-scoring single. In the fifth, a throwing error, a catcher's interference and two walks helped bring the Tigers closer.

In Game 2, FHSU scored six runs in the final four innings and Kevin Czarnecki ended the game on a walk-off single. He finished 2 of 5 including a grand slam. Austin Unrein earned the win in the ninth. He threw just one pitch as a Gorilla runner was caught stealing. Entering the ninth, Gus Strunk singled and Clayton Garland delivered a sacrifice bunt. Alex King singled and then went to second on a wild pitch. After an intentional walk and fielder's choice, Czarnecki singled up the middle.