Freshmen step up for FHSU
By CONOR NICHOLL
Last Friday's home doubleheader against Lincoln (Mo.) University displayed the talents and changes for the three freshmen that start for the Fort Hays State University softball team: first baseman Tori Beltz, second baseman Courtney Dobson and pitcher/designated hitter Paxton Duran.
Together, the trio helped the Tigers roll to two victories and finish the regular season 41-9, 21-5 MIAA. Fort Hays is ranked No. 15 in NCAA Division II in the latest poll released Wednesday, but remained No. 1 in the most important poll -- the newest Central Region Rankings, also released Wednesday.
FHSU was supposed to start in the MIAA postseason tournament today, but weather pushed the games to 2 p.m. Friday in Overland Park, Kan. Win or lose, the second-seeded Tigers also will play at 4 p.m. Friday in the double elimination tournament.
Beltz, known for her power, hit a homer and drove in three runs in Game 2. In the last eight games, she has raised her batting average from .281 to .319, hit four homers and two doubles and driven in 12 runs.
"I was kind of going through a mental slump more than anything, I think," Beltz said. "I was over thinking everything and I got back to my normal self and just going up and swinging and hitting the ball hard. It all started falling into place."
For the season, Beltz has seven homers and 41 RBIs.
"I wouldn't call it turn around," second-year coach Erin Kinberger said. "That's what the kid has been capable of from the day I recruited her out here. It's just finally clicked. She is feeling good. She is rolling with it."
Dobson, the No. 2 hitter nearly all season, carries a .274 average. She has stolen eight bases in nine attempts this spring and often goes for the extra base. Against Lincoln, she scored a run on a play at the plate. Overall, she scored four runs in two games.
"Courtney is a staple, because Courtney knows the game. She is a fun athlete to teach because she doesn't have to have the speed, she doesn't have to have all of these God-given (talents)," Kinberger said. "She gets the game. The fact that she gets the game, she takes advantage of situations that the athletes with God-given talent can't take because they don't know the game like she does."
Duran went 1 of 3 in Game 1 as the designated hitter. She has normally started Game 2 in the circle, but has struggled recently. Duran, 15-7 with a 3.11 earned-run average, has allowed at least three earned runs in five of her last six outings before Lincoln. Kinberger started ace Maddie Holub for the first two innings in Game 2 and then brought in Duran for the final three innings in a 9-0 run-rule victory.
"Just to disperse the weight and that pressure," Kinberger said. "Paxton needed a little bit of that weight dispersed for that start in Game 2, so I had Maddie take it and bear the weight for her, and just get us going, get us rolling on a good foot."