Tiger softball swept by No. 4 Bronchos

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Tiger junior pitcher Maddie Holub shut down the top hitting team in the nation.

But you can't win if you can't score.

Holub, the ace right-hander for the Fort Hays State University softball team, kept in check fourth-ranked University of Central Oklahoma in Friday's first game of a doubleheader at Tiger Stadium. The Bronchos came into the game leading NCAA Division II in batting average, scoring and home runs per game.

Central Oklahoma escaped with a 1-0 win in the opener, with the Bronchos' only run coming on a wild pitch from Holub. Central Oklahoma (33-3) extended its winning streak to 31 games with a 5-0 victory in Game 2.

Holub (11-8) scattered six hits, with one walk and six strikeouts. She now has 196 strikeouts, establishing a new single-season school record since statistics have been available, starting with the 1999 season, when the program resumed after it was discontinued after the 1986 season.

But in the end, it still was a tough-luck loss for Holub.

"It's a heartbreaker, for sure," FHSU coach Erin Kinberger said. "She threw great against a nationally-ranked team that's got really good hitters."

The only run Holub gave up came in the sixth inning. A leadoff walk, followed by a fielder's choice and a double, put runners on second and third with one out. Holub struck out the next hitter, and had an 0-2 count on freshman Macy McKay when she fired a pitch over the head of sophomore catcher Callie Wright to allow the only run of the game to score.

"I thought their first pitcher was good, thought she did a great job," Central Oklahoma coach Genny Stidham said. "I really felt bad that she had to lose like she did, because we didn't earn that win."

Holub fooled the Bronchos' hitters all game, Stidham said.

"We haven't had that many strikeouts, didn't have a pitcher give us as many fits as she did today," Stidham said. "I think she just mixes up her pitches really well -- mixes it up, keeps us off-balance, that's what she did."

As well as Holub pitched, the Tigers struggled just as much at the plate, getting shut out in both ends of a doubleheader for the first time this season.

"Offensively, it's killing us," Kinberger said. "Our offense needs to figure it out.

"You can't win any ball game if you don't score runs," she added.

The Tigers managed four hits off Central Oklahoma sophomore Amanda McClelland in the opener. McClelland (16-1) had two walks and three strikeouts, and retired the last 10 Tigers she faced.

Fort Hays' best scoring threats came in the first and second, when the Tigers had a pair of runners on in each inning, but couldn't come up with the key hit to drive them home.

It was more of the same in Game 2, when junior pitcher Kaitlyn Shattleroe kept the Tigers close for most of the game, but the offense was lacking.

"When your offense doesn't score runs, and you're constantly feeling like it's on you all the time, that's hard for a pitcher to handle," Kinberger said. "It's a lot easier when your team is in ball games and scoring runs."

Shattleroe (7-3) scattered eight hits, with one walk and four strikeouts. The Tiger left-hander kept it 2-0 after three innings, before the Bronchos got two more in the fifth and another in the sixth.

"For her, she had a decent day today," Kinberger said. "Again, it's hard when you have no momentum to go to the circle with."

Central Oklahoma got two RBIs from junior Kacie Edwards in Game 2. That was more than enough for senior starter Rachael Steverson, who improved to 17-2 after tossing a three-hitter.

The Bronchos' long winning streak was tested in the opener, but Stidham was philosophical about it all.

"I assume it's going to be over at some point in time, and we're going to enjoy the year we're having," Stidham said.

"That's how we're going to deal with it."

Fort Hays (20-14) was left dealing with a seven-game losing streak heading into Saturday's home doubleheader with Northeastern State (Okla.) University. It's all about the hitting -- or lack thereof.

"I really wish I could figure it out," Kinberger said.