Twice perfect; Holub hurls another
By CONOR NICHOLL
Junior Katlyn Kern is primarily used for defensive purposes, especially in right field. Entering Friday, Kern had recorded one at-bat and played in 27 games. But Kern's glove helped senior right-hander Maddie Holub and the Fort Hays State University softball team record more history.
In the top of the first inning of Game 1, sophomore second baseman Brooke Swadley, Missouri Southern State University's second hitter in the lineup, hit a fly ball to right-center field. Kern ran back and made a fully outstretched, diving, over-the-shoulder catch.
"I needed to make that catch no matter what," Kern said.
"That was a crazy catch," Holub added.
The play, Kern's only putout of the game, eventually helped preserve Holub's second straight perfect game in a 5-0 victory. FHSU lost the second game, 9-8, in frustrating fashion at Tiger Stadium.
"Game 1 is obviously an awesome experience," coach Erin Kinberger said. "Game 2 is just as important."
Holub had previously thrown a 1-0 perfect game April 6 at home against Northwest Missouri State University, the first perfect game in Fort Hays' NCAA Division II annals. A week later, she replicated the feat. Holub threw 110 pitches, 71 strikes in a 95-minute game. She struck out 14 batters. Fort Hays broke the game open with four sixth inning runs, including back-to-back homers from Holub (a two-run shot) and junior third baseman Danie Brinkmann.
"It is really surreal," Holub said.
Holub's back-to-back perfect contests immediately tied her fourth on the all-time Division II list for perfect games in a career. Three Division II pitchers have thrown three perfect games in a career, according to the NCAA record book.
"Just insane," Kinberger said.
Including a no-hitter against Truman State (Mo.) University on March 29, Holub's three no-hitters this season breaks the conference record. Ten pitchers, most recently University of Central Missouri's Megan Leonard in 2009, had thrown two no-hitters in a single season.
"I will be here for Fort Hays' graduation this year," Missouri Southern coach Bill Gray, who has seen Holub dominate the conference for four years, joked.
However, the Game 2 loss dropped the Tigers out of a first place tie in the conference with University of Central Oklahoma. FHSU, ranked No. 14 in NCAA Division II, dropped to 34-6, 14-2 MIAA, while Missouri Southern improved to 20-20, 7-11 MIAA. The Lions have taken games against UCO and FHSU, both top-25 teams.
"Proved what we were capable of," Gray said.
Because of weather, FHSU's home doubleheader against UCO was postponed earlier this year. Fort Hays proposed to make up the games Monday, but the Bronchos have declined.
As of Friday afternoon, the games are not going to be made up. Kinberger said the matter has been turned over to the conference.
In Game 2, freshman Paxton Duran (13-5) took the loss. She threw all seven innings and allowed 13 hits and nine runs (eight earned) with three strikeouts and two walks. The Tigers made two errors and struggled defensively.
"Most freshmen would have crumbled under the situations," Kinberger said.
Fort Hays fought back from a 4-0 deficit and took a 5-4 lead in the fourth. Then Missouri Southern led 9-5 before the Tigers had three runs in the sixth inning. However, junior catcher Amy Dunn was also thrown out at the plate in a controversial call in the sixth inning. Dunn appeared to be safe on a high throw.
As well, FHSU had problems with a strike zone from home plate umpire Jeff Ridgway, an umpire who hasn't recently called any Fort Hays contests.
The Tigers nearly made another comeback in the bottom of the seventh.
With bases loaded and one out, junior outfielder Bianca Adame -- who has several clutch hits in the April 5-6 homestand -- lined out to the left fielder. Then, freshman second baseman Courtney Dobson ended the game on a strikeout looking on a low 2-2 pitch. Kinberger voiced her displeasure on the field with Ridgway after the game and then had trouble finding words in postgame.
"Clearly inconsistent," Kinberger said.