HAYS, Kan. — The Fort Hays State baseball team completed the series sweep of MSU Denver on Sunday (Feb. 2), scoring early and late in a 5-3 win at Larks Park. The sweep was the first for the Tigers since the start of the 2018 season (at UT Permian Basin) and was their first four-game sweep since April 2015 (at Lincoln).
The Tigers (4-0) collected nine hits on the day, their most in a game so far this season.
After MSU Denver (0-4) pushed one across in the top of the first, the Tigers responded with a three-spot in the home half. Roadrunner starter Cade Crader issued free bases to Traelon Yarbrough and Grant Schmidt on a dropped third strike and a walk, setting the stage for Corbin Truslow. The cleanup hitter came through with a single to left, plating Yarbrough to tie things up at 1-1. Tyler Olson broke things open with a two-out double to left center, bringing home Truslow and Garrett Stephens to put FHSU in front 3-1.
The Roadrunners chipped away over the next three innings, tying things up by the fourth inning with single runs in the third and fourth. Cole Zimmerman came on in relief in the fifth and immediately cooled off the MSU Denver bats, retiring the side in order.
Crader settled in after the first inning, retiring eight-straight batters. Olson and Jared Maneth gave the Tigers a chance to score with a pair of infield singles in the fourth, but Crader got out of the jam with a strikeout and groundout.
Zimmerman tossed another scoreless frame in the sixth before giving way to Dylan Hamilton, who did not allow a hit in his one inning of work.
Connor Nantkes (0-1) came on in relief for the Roadrunners in the seventh and quickly retired the side in order, but the heart of the lineup got to the lefty in the eighth. Schmidt led off with a double down the third-base line before Truslow worked a walk, forcing MSU Denver to change pitchers once again.
Carter Akerfelds came on and nearly escaped the jam, retiring the first two batters he faced. But Maneth had other plans, punching the first pitch he saw into right field, just out of the reach of a diving Roadrunner. Schmidt came around to score from second, allowing the Tigers to regain a 4-3 lead. Griffin Brunson followed with a clutch single up the middle, driving in Truslow to pad the lead to 5-3.
Jaxson Webb nearly made the score 6-3 with a single of his own, but a perfect throw from center fielder Owen Reynolds ended the inning with a play at the plate.
After retiring the side in order with two strikeouts in the eighth, Cade Flaherty (1-0) stayed in the game to try and seal the win for the Tigers in the ninth. Brice Martinez reached on a bunt single, but was retired for the final out of the game two batters later when Truslow dove to his right to keep a sharp ground ball on the infield. Second baseman Olson made the quick decision to grab the ball and fire towards second, where Brunson was covering to record the final out.
Flaherty earned the win after throwing two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out two. Zimmerman struck out three Roadrunners in his two innings of work.
Maneth finished the day 3-for-4 at the plate while driving in the game-winning run. Olson was 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI, while Truslow was the only Tiger to score multiple runs with two.
Crader struck out eight Tigers over six innings of work, giving up three runs on five hits and one walk.
Fort Hays State will hit the road for the first time in 2020 next weekend when they travel to Golden, Colo. for a four-game series against No. 23 Colorado School of Mines. The series begins Friday (Feb. 7) with a 4 p.m. CT (3 p.m. MT) first pitch.