Finding comfort in playing at home for the first time in six weeks, the Fort Hays State baseball team used timely hitting and solid pitching to start a four-game homestand on a strong note.
After 15 straight road games, the Tigers pounded out 14 hits and held Northwestern Oklahoma State’s lineup in check in the late innings, picking up their third victory of the season with a come-from-behind 8-4 win on Wednesday at Larks Park.
Marcus Altman broke a 4-4 tie with a solo home run in the sixth and the Tigers (3-21) tacked on three more insurance runs.
FHSU starting pitcher Jake Taylor went 5.1 innings for a no-decision before side-armer Ryan Brown worked 3.2 scoreless innings to earn the win.
“It was good to get that first home win and just be at home,” Tigers’ first-year coach Jerod Goodale said. “We’ve been able to get outside the last couple weeks, which was good; we hadn’t been able to do a whole lot of that.
“It was a really good baseball game. We made some good pitches when we needed to, got a really good start, Jake Taylor settling in and then Ryan Brown coming in and slamming the door. We had a lot of good defensive plays and a lot of big hits.”
Altman, a Hays High product, helped fuel the Tigers’ big day at the plate, delivering a two-run double in the third before going deep to left field in the sixth for his first home run of the year.
“It was great to see Marcus get going,” Goodale said. “He’s probably had our best well-hit average on the year with hardly anything to show for it — he’s been lining out a lot. He’s a guy that gives you a chance. He’ll put the ball in play. You can see he’s getting more comfortable the last couple weeks.”
Taylor made some key pitches in tough spots. He allowed four runs, seven hits and two walks while striking out two. The sophomore got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth by inducing a ground ball to second for a double play.
“He was kind of teetering at times, same with Ryan Brown, and they settled in and made the pitches when they had to,” Goodale said. “Those double plays that we had early on, I think those really helped settle Jake in.”
The Rangers got just one hit off of Brown, who walked two in the eighth but escaped damage after a strikeout and a pop up.
“(Taylor) was kind of getting to the end of his pitch count and we kind of liked the spot of the game of bringing Ryan Brown in," Goodale said. "It’s a totally different look. He’s even different than most side-arm guys — that much slower. We feel like with teams that can swing the bat a little bit like we think Northwestern can, he can screw good hitters up.”
NWOSU (17-13) scored three in the top of the second after a double from Taylor Rutledge and a two-run homer to left by Harrison Hull. FHSU answered with an RBI single Marcus McDaniel in the bottom of the inning.
After his two-run double to left center in the third, Altman came around to score on Tyler Olsen’s single to put the Tigers in front, 4-3.
The Rangers knotted it up in the sixth on Luis Mendoza’s RBI single, but the Tigers scored the game’s last four runs, starting with Altman’s solo shot. They added another run off an NWOSU error in the sixth and scored two more in the eighth after Jordan Wilkerson came through with an RBI single and Ryan Grasser was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
Olson went 3 for 4 at the plate while Altman, Grasser and Sramek had two hits each.
“It was just good baseball — defensively, the two-strike hitting, two-out hitting, getting a lead and throwing up zeroes,” Goodale said.
Kyle Rogers drew the start for NWOSU, allowing four runs and seven hits in three innings. Kolby Spicer took the loss after allowing two runs (one earned) in the sixth.
The Tigers, who ended a seven-game skid, will begin a three-game series with Lindenwood at 1 p.m. Saturday at Larks Park.
“Hopefully they can build off (the win),” Goodale said. “Just being at home and not having to pack up and be on a bus tonight, that’s a great feeling. We get to sleep in our own beds and get back to Larks Park.”