LUBBOCK, Texas - Fort Hays State Softball opened its 2020 season on Friday (Feb. 7) by splitting a pair of games with Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opponents. The Tigers claimed their season opener with an offensive outburst, 14-10 over UC-Colorado Springs, before falling to Chadron State 4-1.
Fort Hays State 14, UC-Colorado Springs 10
Both teams were relatively quiet early in the season opener as FHSU led just 1-0 through two innings. The remainder of the game, however, would see 23 runs scored between the two squads with FHSU coming out of the fray with the win.
The Tigers took their early 1-0 lead on an RBI triple by Grace Philop in the second inning. At that point, Michaelanne Nelson was cruising along with just one hit allowed.
Nelson continued what would be a string of seven consecutive outs in the third inning before running into her first bit of trouble. With two outs in the frame, the Mountain Lions scratched out a base hit and a walk. That set the table for clean-up hitter Payton Romines to hit a 3-run homer that instantly swung the score in favor of UCCS, 3-1.
The Tiger offense, however, was just getting started as they roared back with four runs in the third, swiping the lead back from the Mountain Lions. An error to start the inning off the bat of Hannah Gates got the rally underway. Katie Adler followed with a single before Kristen Reed laced an RBI double to plate Gates. Sara Breckbill got into the extra-base hit act with a double of her own, driving in both Adler and Reed. Philop would later cap the rally with an RBI single to score Breckbill.
Nelson faced a bases-loaded jam early in the fourth that turned into three runs for UCCS in another shift of the lead. An RBI groundout, a sacrifice fly RBI, and an RBI single pushed the three runners across that got on to start the inning for UCCS. The Mountain Lions were back in front 6-5.
A two-out error by UCCS in the fourth proved costly as Alexis Velazquez hit an RBI double to right field, tying the game at 6-6. Velazquez had more fireworks in her bat an inning later.
Despite a couple of rough patches in the third and fourth, Nelson quieted the Mountain Lion bats in the fifth with a pair of strikeouts and a ground out. That would be the final scoreless half inning in the game. The Tigers went on to put up a big rally in the bottom half of the inning, which ultimately decided the game.
Elise Capra started the fifth-inning rally with a walk. Loren Beggs picked up a pinch-hit single, then Terran Caldwell walked to load the bases. UCCS nearly escaped the jam, getting a lineout and flyout, but UCCS reliever Lexi Rayburn proceeded to issue back-to-back bases-loaded walks to Kristen Reed and Sara Breckbill. After tying the game the previous half inning, Velazquez delivered the decisive blow in the game with a grand slam. FHSU pushed its advantage to 12-6, which proved to be insurmountable.
Hailey Chapman took the ball in the circle for the final two innings, but gave up four runs. A pair of insurance runs by the Tigers in the sixth helped, pushing a 12-9 lead out to 14-9 on RBI singles from Megan Feiner and Adler. UCCS plated just one run in the seventh, which made the final margin of four runs.
Nelson picked up the win in the starting effort, going 5.0 innings with six runs allowed on five hits and five walks. She struck out eight batters. Chapman fanned four batters, but allowed six hits in her two innings of work.
Chadron State 4, Fort Hays State 1
After having a field day against UC-Colorado Springs in the opener, the Tigers had a tough time solving Chadron State lefty pitcher DeAnna Barrera in their second contest. Barrera tossed a complete game against the Tigers, allowing just one unearned run on six hits and a walk with seven strikeouts.
The Tigers' only run came in the first inning. A throwing error by the Chadron State second baseman allowed Hannah Gates to score from second on a ball put in play by Kristen Reed. The Tigers had runners reach scoring position in the third, fifth and sixth innings, but could not push any more runs across. Barrera ended all three of those threats by strikeout.
Chadron State took the lead with a pair of runs in the third inning. The Eagles added single runs in the fourth and fifth. The Eagles scored all four runs on RBI singles.
Fort Hays State starter Hailey Chapman surrendered three runs on seven hits and three walks in 3.1 innings of work. She did have a strong stretch within the first and second innings with six consecutive strikeouts. She ended a first-inning bases loaded threat with three straight punchouts and returned to fan the side in order in the second. Michaelanne Nelson entered in relief in the fourth and allowed just one run on two hits and a walk with two strikeouts over 2.2 innings.
The Tigers will see action on Lubbock Christian University's home field on Saturday (PlainsCapital Park). FHSU faces Southern Nazarene at 12:15 pm before taking on New Mexico Highlands in the nightcap at 7 pm.