EMPORIA — A ninth-inning rally came up just short for the Fort Hays State baseball team Thursday evening against Emporia State, as the Tigers fell 7-5. The Tigers fell behind 5-0 before rallying for five runs in the final two innings, but a two-run home run for the Hornets in the eighth inning made all the difference.
The Tigers dip to 11-20 overall and 3-14 in MIAA play while the Hornets are now 16-12 on the year and 7-8 in league action.
Fort Hays State struggled offensively against Hornet starter Seth Holman, collecting just four hits over the first eight innings. After Emporia State took a 5-0 lead by the fifth inning, the Tigers pushed across their first run in the top of the eighth after Marcus Altman led off with a double down the left field line. After moving to third on a groundout, the sophomore came in to score on an RBI groundout off the bat of Jason Nicholson.
The Hornets stretched the lead to 7-1 in the bottom of the eighth when Bryce Fischer lifted a two-run home run over the fence in right. Down to their final three outs, the Tigers took advantage when ESU went to the bullpen in the top of the ninth.
Alex Weiss led things off with a double to right before Ryan Grasser worked a walk two batters later. Jordan Wilkerson helped the Tigers close within 7-2 with a single to right center, plating Weiss. After a passed ball allowed Wilkerson and Grasser to move up one base, the pair came around to score when Bryce Baumwart pushed a single down the right field line. Marcus Altman followed with a third-consecutive single, forcing the Hornets to make another pitching change.
Bryce Whitchurch kept things rolling with a single through the right side, scoring Baumwart and helping the Tigers close within two with just one out, 7-5. After a strikeout it came down to the Tigers’ best hitter in Addison Kaasch. The junior sent a liner toward right field, but the first baseman swiped it out of the air to bring the game to a close.
Ben Ramberg (2-4) took the loss after allowing five runs over 4.2 innings of work, striking out four and allowing six hits. Roger Kruse came on retire all but one hitter he faced, giving up just one hit through two scoreless innings.
Weiss finished the day 3-for-4 with a double and one run scored, while Altman was 2-for-4 with a run.
The Tigers will look to even the series today when the teams battle in Game 2 at 5 p.m. in Emporia.