EMPORIA — Fort Hays State fell by one run twice to Emporia State on Friday. The Tigers held leads in both games, but fell by scores of 2-1 and 3-2. FHSU is now 16-17 overall and 9-9 in the MIAA, while Emporia State improved to 18-21 overall and 8-8 in the MIAA. The Tigers fell back into a five-way tie for sixth place in the MIAA standings, with four conference doubleheaders to go.
Game 1: Emporia State 2, Fort Hays State 1
Fort Hays State briefly enjoyed a 1-0 lead following the top of the first inning, but Emporia State tied the game in the bottom half and eventually scored the game-winning run in the fourth inning.
The Tigers struggled to find gaps in the ESU defense as Katie Adler's single in the first inning was the only hit the Tigers scratched out in the first contest. However, the Tigers did find ways on base, just no runs to show for a couple run-scoring opportunities later in the game. FHSU did draw two walks, got hit by pitches twice, and also had one reach by error.
Down 2-1 in the fifth, the Tigers loaded the bases with a walk, an error by the Hornets, and a hit batter. However, Emporia State pitcher Montana Mesler got a strikeout on a 3-2 count to end the Tiger threat. Mesler hit Allie Jurgensen to lead off the seventh and FHSU used Megan Feiner as a pinch runner, but Feiner moved no further than second base as Emporia State reliever Kelsey Phillips picked up her second save of the season getting a ground out to end the game. Mesler walked two, hit two, and struck out five in her one-hit performance over 6.0 innings to earn the win.
Hailey Chapman allowed only one earned run to the Hornets in a complete-game effort. An error by the Tigers in the first inning allowed Emporia State to get the game tied on a two-out RBI single by Destiny Ojigoh. Rachel Kauss produced the game's only earned run in the fourth on a sacrifice bunt RBI to score a runner from third and give the Hornets the one-run edge. Chapman gave up eight hits and two walks, but struck out 10.
Game 2: Emporia State 3, Fort Hays State 2
Runs were hard to come by once again in the second game, though both teams had excellent opportunities early. FHSU and ESU played to a scoreless tie until FHSU broke through in the top of the fifth with two runs. However, the Tigers saw the Hornets come back to steal the second game with a run in the bottom of the fifth and then two in the bottom of the seventh to win in walk-off fashion.
Fort Hays State placed eight runners in scoring position over the first four innings, but had nothing in the run column to show for it. The second inning was particularly a tough pill to swallow for the Tigers, coming up empty handed with runners at second and third with no outs. A strikeout, flyout to center field, and another strikeout ended the threat. Later in the fourth, the Tigers led off with a double but struck out, lined out, and grounded out to end another great opportunity with a runner in scoring position and no outs. Not putting the ball in play right after the runners moved into scoring position came back to bite the Tigers in the end.
Emporia State went through the same troubles in the third inning with runners at second and third with one out. A lineout double play ended that threat.
Katie Adler busted through the scoreless stalemate in the fifth when she laced a triple to right field to score Terran Caldwell from first. Caldwell had led off the inning with a single. A fielding error on a ball off the bat of Sara Breckbill brought Adler home from third, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead. However, the Tigers did not make the Hornets pay any further for the error with back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
Errors would wind up haunting the Tigers late in the game. A throwing error in the bottom of the fifth on Kailee Odegard's stolen base attempt at second base allowed Odegard to move to third. A sacrifice fly brought home Emporia State's first run, cutting the FHSU lead in half.
Michaelanne Nelson worked out of danger in the sixth by getting a pair of strikeouts to strand the bases loaded and end a major scoring opportunity for the Hornets. However, her good fortune ended immediately in the seventh on a solo home run surrendered to Brittanie Shepherd, tying the game 2-2. Nelson allowed a walk immediately following the home run, and then the situation became more dire when the Tigers added a throwing error on a the back end of an infield single to put runners at first and third with no outs. Nelson got a pop up for the first out of the inning, but the game-winning run came in from third on a fielder's choice RBI off the bat of Rachel Kauss, who wound up having the game-winning RBIs in each contest.
Due to Tiger errors at unfortunate junctures in the game, only one of Nelson's runs allowed was earned. She allowed eight hits, walked two, and struck out six. It was the fourth complete-game effort for Nelson this season.
Sydney Righi picked up a complete-game win for the Hornets. She allowed nine hits and struck out six, moving to 5-5 on the season.
-Allison Jurgensen, Katie Adler, Sara Breckbill, and Grace Philop were the four Tigers with a team-best two hits on the day. Jurgensen was the only Tiger to hit over .300 in the doubleheader, going 2-for-5 at the plate.
-Tiger pitching allowed only two earned runs and struck out 16 batters on the day.
-Five teams are tied for sixth place in the MIAA standings, all with .500 records in MIAA play. FHSU, Nebraska-Kearney, and Pittsburg State are all at 9-9, Lindenwood is at 11-11, and Emporia State is at 8-8.
Fort Hays State faces Washburn on Saturday (Apr. 13) in Topeka, Kan. The doubleheader is set to begin at 1 pm. Washburn enters with a record of 21-19 overall and 12-4 in the MIAA.