Tiger softball sweeps UNK
By CONOR NICHOLL
Senior left fielder Bianca Adame had three hits in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader against University of Nebraska-Kearney, but thought two of them would be caught. In the sixth inning of Game 2, sophomore designated player Tori Beltz hit a high flyball down the left field line. She didn't know whether the ball was catchable.
"I was just going to keep running until it hit the ground or someone caught it or whatever happened," Beltz said. "I wasn't going to stop running."
All three balls eventually fell.
Adame's swings helped her drive in seven runs, tying a school single game record, while Beltz's double marked her first hit since March 15. The three at-bats were key in Fort Hays' 12-4, 6-4 sweep of the rival Lopers on senior day at Tiger Stadium.
The first game was called after five innings because of the run-rule.
FHSU trailed 3-0 entering the bottom of the second in the first game and 4-2 entering the bottom of the sixth in the second contest. Both coaches took issue with an inconsistent strike zone, especially in the first game. FHSU starting pitcher Katlyn Kern was called for an illegal pitch in the second inning of Game 2, which eventually led to four Loper runs.
"It seemed like we jumped out right away and then had a few errors here and there," UNK coach Holly Carnes said. "I felt like we kind of let down. Give credit to Hays. They hit the ball well, and made plays when they needed to."
Junior right-hander Kelsey Kimminau (10-7), battling a back and knee issue, worked 5.1 scoreless innings for the victory in relief of Kern. Kinberger discovered a problem with Kimminau's feet this week in practice. The change allows Kimminau to open her hips more and throw harder.
"I was getting my feet tangled and now they are not tangled and now I can pitch," Kimminau said.
The Tigers improved to 28-17, 17-9 MIAA and finished fourth in the league. Fort Hays closes the regular season at UNK (12-28, 9-17) today in a doubleheader that counts as non-conference. The Tigers will play University of Central Missouri in the first round of the conference tournament next weekend.
For Senior Day, Tiger Stadium was adorned in FHSU colors and each of the seven seniors had a big poster on the outfield fence with their name, number and an adjective describing them.
Between the games, the seniors were honored in an on-field ceremony with family, friends, gifts and photos. Adame, from El Paso, wasn't able to have her parents present because of the family business, but said they followed the games online.
"I feel like everybody was a part of these wins, and it feels good to watch somebody like Bianca - you could see it in her eyes," coach Erin Kinberger said. "That kid was determined today."
Adame, the leadoff hitter, entered the day with a .340 average and a team-high 28 runs, but had just eight RBIs. In Game 1, she finished 3 of 4 with two runs scored and seven RBIs, tying the mark set first by Robyn Blecha in 1999 and Alex Eaton in 2009. She drove in another run with a sacrifice fly in the second contest. Adame said she had never driven in so many runs in a game in her career.
"That's awesome," Adame said.
Adame took advantage of big days from sophomore center fielder Amanda Vaupel, senior catcher Callie Wright and senior shortstop Kellsi Olsen in the 7-8-9 holes. In Game 1, the trio went 5 of 7 with eight runs scored, including a run by Madison Putman, who pinch-ran for Wright one at-bat.
"When I hit them in, I said, 'Hey, don't thank me, you guys were on bag, so you guys made my job easier,'" Adame said. "It's awesome that they came out to play today."
In the second inning, she delivered a three-run double down the left field line that tied the game at 3. The wind, blowing hard out to left field, helped carry the ball over UNK left fielder Taylre Keenan's head.
"Honestly, from my view, I thought it was going to be caught," Adame said. "When it didn't get caught, I was like, 'Awesome, yes.'"
In the fourth, she drove in two more runs with a chopper up the middle. An inning later, Adame hit a line drive into the left-center gap. Mackenzie Tomlin dove for the ball, but missed and two runs scored. Senior Jordan Jones (1-0) earned her first win of the season with two relief innings.
"I thought she was going to catch that one, too, but I guess it was just senior luck," Adame said with a laugh.
Beltz, 0 of 24 before the double, keyed a four-run sixth with the swing. With one out, sophomore Courtney Dobson singled and senior Danie Brinkmann blooped a double down the right field line. Kinberger could have used several pinch-hitters, but stuck with Beltz, an all-conference player last season, but batting .171 this year. Kinberger told Beltz she believed in her, which gave Beltz a "big boost."
Kinberger meet her down for the third-base line for an emphatic high-five before the at-bat. On a full count pitch, Beltz lofted the fly ball down the line.
"It was really, really high," Beltz said.
The wind carried the ball. Keenan ran over, but it fell just in front of the 200 sign at the base of the wall. When Beltz reached second, she looked at Kinberger at the third base coaching box and flashed a gigantic smile.
"It was very relieving," Beltz said. "It was about time. I have been waiting for that one for a while."
Then, freshman third baseman Kylie Strand smoked a single to right field to score two runs. After a walk, Vaupel drove in the game's final run with a run-scoring single.