JOPLIN, Mo. — For much of the action in Sunday’s series finale at Missouri Southern, the Fort Hays State University baseball team looked to be headed for its ninth consecutive loss.
The Tigers (18-25, 12-20) scored five runs in the final two innings for a crucial 6-5 victory over the Lions (28-15, 18-14).
The hosts led 5-1 after a three-run sixth inning and took that lead to the eighth.
Clayton Basgall and Connor Ross opened the inning with consecutive singles that chased MSSU starter Chris Hoffman from the game. Kyle McCulloch came on in relief and walked the first batter he faced, shortstop Nick Hammeke, to load the bases. Austin Unrein then tied the game with a grand slam to left.
Senior designated hitter Joe Mapes chased McCulloch from the game with a one-out double later in the inning, but the Tigers failed to take the lead at that point.
Jackson Rolfs retired the Lions in order in the bottom half, keeping it a 5-5 game to start the ninth,
Alex King opened the final frame with a double off Conner Matson before advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt off Basgall’s bat. Ross failed to plate the go-ahead run, bringing Hammeke up with two outs. The senior looked at a pair of pitches out of the zone to open the at-bat before taking the third pitch to right for a single that scored King and put the Tigers in front.
After Rolfs allowed the potential tying run to reach third base, Giles Fox came on for the final out, a fly out to Ross in center, for his fifth save of the season.
FHSU took an early lead on a Caleb Cherryholmes RBI double in the top of the second, but MSSU answered with runs off Tiger starter D.J. Carr in the fourth and fifth innings before chasing him from the game with a two-run, two-out triple in the sixth.
Carr was responsible for five earned runs in 5.2 innings of work, while Rolfs got the win after three scoreless innings. The reliever struck out four and allowed three hits.
Ross and Cherryholmes each hit safely twice, while Unrein plated four of the team’s runs with his homer in the eighth.
Five different Lions recorded two hits, as the hosts owned a 12-11 advantage in the category. The Lions committed the game’s only error.
FHSU will look for a second consecutive win on Wednesday when the Tigers host Nebraska-Kearney at Larks Park.
Fort Hays State 6, Missouri Southern 5
FHSU 010 000 041 — 6 11 0
MSSU 000 113 000 — 5 12 1
Carr, Rolfs, Fox and Redington; Hoffman, McCulloch, Matson and Smith. W: Rolfs 4-1. L: Matson 4-1. S: Fox (5). 2B: Weiss, Mapes, Cherryholmes, King; Hoffman. 3B: Gorski, Biggs. HR: Unrein.