EMPORIA — A strong effort from the pitching staff and multiple timely hits helped the Fort Hays State baseball team defeat Emporia State in Saturday's series finale, 7-4. The Tigers took an early lead and never trailed thanks to a strong start from Ryan Ruder and a lock-down relief effort from Cody Rottinghaus and Sam Capps.
The Tigers are now 12-21 on the year and 4-16 in MIAA play, while Emporia State dips to 17-13 overall and 8-9 in conference action. Fort Hays State put together 13 hits in the win, its highest hit total in nearly two weeks, while limiting ESU to nine base knocks. Both sides recorded one error.
Fort Hays State got out to a quick start with Addison Kaasch doubling to left field on the fourth pitch of the game. After Alex Weiss singled, a walk to Cody Starkel loaded the bases with two outs. Ryan Grasser came through with a big base hit, punching a single back up the middle to drive in a pair.
After Ruder (3-4) retired the side in order in the first, Marcus Altman picked up the second leadoff double for the Tigers in as many innings. The Hays native moved up to third on a sacrifice bunt before coming in to score on an RBI groundout from Kaasch, putting the Tigers up 3-0.
Ruder ended up retiring the first eight batters he faced, striking out four of those batters. Emporia State finally got to the sophomore in the fourth inning, scoring three runs on three hits and a walk.
After seeing ESU tie things up, the Tigers immediately responded with a three-spot of their own in the top of the fifth. Once again sparked by a leadoff double, this time from Weiss, the Tigers regained the lead when Grasser came through with a two-out double. FHSU got a pitch hit by Jordan Wilkerson in the next at bat before Altman singled towards right, bringing Grasser around to score. Clayton Basgall kept the two-out rally going with another single through the right side, plating Wilkerson and putting the Tigers in front by three, 6-3.
The Tigers tacked on an insurance run in the sixth when Grasser collected his fourth RBI of the afternoon, scoring Weiss with a bunt single down the third-base line.
Ruder completed the fifth inning before the Tigers went to the pen, allowing just five hits and one walk. Rottinghaus was first in relief, striking out two while allowing just one run over 2.1 innings of work. The junior worked around a one-out triple in the seventh, stranding runners on the corners.
Capps came on with one out in the eighth inning, giving up an RBI single to the first batter he faced before inducing a double play to get out of the frame with a three-run lead. The closer mowed down the Hornets in order in the ninth, securing the victory for FHSU while earning his fifth save of the year.
Grasser, Altman and Kaasch all collected three hits in the victory, while Grasser drove in four RBI. Weiss scored three of the seven Tiger runs.
The Tigers will return home to take on Washburn in a midweek clash on Tuesday. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. from Larks Park.