Final home games for Tigers
By CONOR NICHOLL
Coach Steve Johnson had his customary postgame meeting with his Fort Hays State University baseball team down the third base line following Wednesday's 14-12 home victory against NAIA Bethany College at Larks Park. Then, Johnson dismissed the team, but talked briefly with the seniors by the third base bag. FHSU has just five seniors after having seven, 16 and 13 in Johnson's first three seasons.
The group of starting outfielders Jordan Miller and Clayton Garland, starting first baseman Horace Johnson and relief pitchers Nathan Briar and Drew Martineau has struggled through a tough spring. Fort Hays stands at 14-24, easily the program's worst record since a 9-33 mark in 1991, the last season before the Tigers moved to NCAA Division II. The biggest issue has been starting pitching, which is a cumulative 7-19 with an 8.68 earned-run average and averaged just four innings a start. FHSU has three quality starts -- at least six innings, no more than three earned runs -- with two by Austin Unrein and one from Tyler Patty.
"They are all quality guys," Johnson said of the seniors. "They come to work every day. A few of them are probably disappointed in some of their results this year."
On Friday and Saturday, FHSU completes its home portion with the penultimate series of the year against Lindenwood (Mo.) University. The Tigers will play a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. today and 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Lions stand at 15-24, 12-16 MIAA, a spot above Fort Hays in the standings. FHSU is 12th in the 14-team league at 11-21 MIAA. Top eight reach the conference tournament.
Garland is delivering an outstanding season with a team-high .428 batting average with four homers, 30 RBIs and 35 runs scored. Johnson carries a .273 mark, but has flashed power with seven homers and a team-best 36 RBIs. Miller has played in just 26 games because of injury and bats .320. Against Bethany, Miller was thrown out on a steal.
"It's tough to look at Jordan Miller, knowing that he had to go through the season not being 100 percent," Johnson said. "He got a great jump today and got thrown out by three feet on a steal and that just wouldn't happen if he is healthy and able to run."
Martineau is 0-1 in nine games, while Briar has been the best relief pitcher with a 2-1 record and 6.65 earned-run average in a team-high 14 appearances.