The Fort Hays State University baseball team manufactured a season-high five home runs in an offensive shootout victory over Northwestern Oklahoma State 18-16 on Wednesday at Larks Park. The Tigers avenged a 7-6 extra-inning loss to the Rangers from Feb. 7 in Alva, Okla. FHSU improved to 8-6 overall, while NWOSU dipped to 8-7 on the year.
In a game full of offense for both teams, Fort Hays State scored the most runs in a single game since last season against New Mexico Highlands and hit the most home runs in a game since 2016.
Easton Palmer got the start for the Tigers, but a couple FHSU defensive miscues and two home runs from the Rangers gave NWOSU a quick 5-0 lead to begin the contest. Addison Kaasch collected his first home run of the season with a lead off blast to straight center, putting the Tigers on the board in the home half of the first.
The Rangers chased Palmer out of the game with two outs in the second frame, building a 9-1 lead before Austin Weiser came on in relief, producing a fly out to escape the inning with no further damage.
The Tiger bats soon heated up in the bottom of the second inning, as they plated 10 runs on eight hits. Jordan Wilkerson began the scoring affair with a solo shot to right for his fourth deep ball of the season. Marcus Altman came around to score on Jason Nicholson’s triple to left-center, giving the Tigers some life. Nicholson then crossed home plate via Jonathan Mariani’s RBI single to the outfield.
Clayton Basgall roped a 2-run single up the heart of the diamond, plating Kaasch and Mariani. Dayton Pomeroy then cleared the bases with his team-leading fifth home run of the season, a two-run blast over the wall in left-center, scoring Basgall and closing the gap to 9-8 in favor of the Rangers.
Altman kept the inning alive, giving the Tigers their first lead of the game sending a 3-run shot to left-center. The Tigers grabbed an 11-9 lead after two wild innings of play. Grasser tacked on a couple more runs in the third with a 2-RBI single through the left side of the field, increasing the Tiger lead to 13-9 after three frames.
In the fourth inning, the Rangers third-baseman, Justin Bundy, knocked in his first of three home runs in the contest, cutting the Tiger lead to 13-11.
Kaasch demolished his second long ball of the season in the fourth frame, a three-run opposite field blast, extending the Tiger lead to 16-11. Nicholson put the Tigers up for good with a sacrifice fly to center, plating Grasser in the fifth frame. Pomeroy recorded an RBI groundout in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving the Tigers the 18-12 advantage.
NWOSU stormed back in the game with Bundy hitting two more big flies, most notably a two-run home run in the top of the ninth, collapsing the Tigers’ lead to 18-16 before Sam Capps struck out the side to end the game, giving the Tigers the victory.
Weiser (1-0) picked up the win for FHSU, going 1.2 innings of relief. Tanner Smith came out of the bullpen and pitched 2.2 solid innings of work, surrendering only a run on three hits while striking out five batters. Cole Schumacher and Cody Rottinghaus each pitched one inning of out the pen before Capps came on to prevent the Rangers from coming back in the game.
Senior Jonathan Mariani collected four hits in five at-bats in the contest, scoring two runs and producing one run batted in.
The Tigers will be back in action as they resume conference play over the weekend when they play host to Northwest Missouri in the MIAA home opener. Game 1 with the Bearcats is set for 2 p.m. Friday.