Tiger baseball earns win against Bethany
By CONOR NICHOLL
Three of the Fort Hays State University baseball team's trends provided framework for a wild, 3 hour and 23-minute game Tuesday night at Larks Park. Throughout the season, the bullpen has struggled, except for two pitchers: junior right-hander Kyle Leroy and senior right-handed closer Brett Macari. The offense has usually hit well, especially junior left fielder Ryan Busboom, who continued his All-American-type numbers.
Busboom helped the Tigers rally from a four-run deficit and hit a walk-off grand slam down the left field line for a 17-13 victory against Bethany College.
Busboom, the MIAA leader and in the top-11 in the country in homers and RBIs per game, enjoyed arguably the best game of his collegiate career. He finished 5-for-6 with three homers, a double, five runs scored and seven RBIs.
"I struggled in the middle of the year with just not getting my foot down and just being too lackadaisical up there," Busboom said. "But now when I get up there I am real calm and not as much movement in my at-bat and I just think right up the middle and usually end up pulling it."
Fort Hays didn't want to use Leroy or Macari, sidearm/submarine style pitchers who have been the only two consistent relievers. However, senior Tyler Treinen, junior J.J. Jaramillo, senior Connor Beer and senior Casey Pierce all scuffled. Leroy worked a career-high 3 2/3 innings and permitted two runs on four hits. Leroy had one strikeout, but constantly coaxed ground ball outs.
"They are good hitters, but I just threw strikes and my defense did the work," Leroy said.
Macari (3-1) earned the victory when he closed out the contest with 2 1/3 scoreless innings. The reigning MIAA Pitcher of the Week, Macari hasn't allowed a run in his last six appearances and dropped his earned-run average down to a team-best 1.61. Coach Steve Johnson didn't want to use Leroy or Macari on Tuesday but had to.
"We have had no consistency out of the rest of the bullpen," Johnson said. "Guys go out and they will have a good outing and then they will turn right around the next time -- it's still the same problem we have had all year. There is no in-between. There is no average outing. It is either a real good outing or it's horrible."
The victory moved Fort Hays to 23-19, while Bethany dropped to 26-19. The teams combined for 12 pitchers, six by either side, 36 hits and six homers. As well, the squads had to sit through an 18-minute weather delay in the top of the seventh. The Tigers scored in every inning except the fourth.
"We may have come out tonight and assumed a little bit too much and that's pretty dangerous to do in baseball, but I thought how we pitched in the early innings really set the tone for the performance that you saw, which was kind of subpar," Johnson said.
Following the delay, Bethany scored six runs in the seventh against Beer and Pierce before Macari gained the final out of the inning. Fort Hays chipped back with a run in the seventh and two more in the eighth. In the ninth, Bethany brought in junior Will Gibson, who promptly hit senior third baseman Luke Kordsmeier. Kordsmeier finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two hit by pitches; Bethany hit five batters in the game. After a sacrifice bunt, senior right fielder Nash Smith doubled to left-center to score junior pinch runner Chris Santoscoy and tie the game.
Smith was caught in a rundown between first and second, but was safe at second when Bethany misplayed the rundown. After two walks to load the bases, Busboom worked a 1-0 count when he hit a fly ball, in foul territory, down the left field line. Bethany let the ball drop because the Swedes believed the ball was hit deep enough for Smith to score.
"I didn't think they were going to throw out our guy on third just because we have got some speedy guys on our team," Busboom said.
Two pitches later, Busboom received a breaking ball and lined it over the wall.
"I just told myself, 'Get it to the outfield so we can score the run.' Guess I hit it good enough to get it out of here," Busboom said with a smile. "...It was a good pitch and put a good swing on it and just caught a barrel."
He now carries a .410 batting average, 16 homers and 63 RBIs, all team-bests.
"Guys that typically maintain a good, short swing have a chance to stay consistent and that's what he has done all year," Johnson said.