OKLAHOMA CITY – Fort Hays State moved to 6-4 overall on the season with a split of its games on Sunday (Feb. 16) in Oklahoma City at Tom Heath Field, home of the Oklahoma Christian University softball team. The Tigers fell in their first contest of the day to Colorado Christian, 7-2, before posting a history-making win with a 1-0, 8-inning, win over Oklahoma Baptist. In the win over OBU, Michaelanne Nelson became the first player in FHSU history to throw an extra-inning no-hitter and sixth player in program history to throw a complete-game no-hitter.
Colorado Christian 7, Fort Hays State 2
The Tigers struggled with situational hitting in their first game for the second straight day, not able to push runs across in good run-scoring opportunities early. Hannah Gates and Terran Caldwell opened the game with back-to-back singles, but there was no more movement after a fielder's choice, pop up, and foul pop up. Lily Sale opened the third inning with a single and then took an extra base when the CCU defense left second base vacated. The next batter struck out, but Caldwell singled to left center. Sale held up to see if the ball would be caught, placing runners at first and third, but then a pop up and ground out ended the threat.
After working a 1-2-3 first inning, Hailey Chapman struggled with command to open the second inning throwing six straight balls. With a runner already on first, the second batter took advantage of being ahead in the count and roped a ball for a double, putting runners at second and third. A sacrifice fly plated Colorado Christian's first run.
The Cougars benefitted from a Tiger throwing error with two outs in the fourth, scoring two runs on a routine grounder that should have been the end of the inning. CCU led 3-0 after four innings. The Cougars tacked on two more in the fifth with an RBI triple and RBI single.
Fort Hays State finally cashed in during the sixth inning after Caldwell singled and Kristen Reed walked to open the frame. CCU made a pitching change with Reamer entering the circle. The Tigers struggled to move the runners again with a pop up and a strikeout, but Bailey Boxberger kept the inning alive with a single to the right side, loading the bases. Grace Philop then delivered a clutch 2-RBI single up the middle, making the score 5-2 in favor of CCU. The Tigers nearly plated another run as Loren Beggs hit a drive to left center, but the center fielder ran it down to end the Tiger threat.
Mahealani Haegele saw her first action as a Tiger in the pitching circle during the sixth. With one out, Chapman allowed two batters to reach base, prompting the change. The Cougars had two straight singles to plate a run and a sacrifice fly plated another, pushing their advantage back to five. Haegele recorded her first strikeout as a Tiger to end the inning.
Caldwell finished the game 3-of-4 at the plate, the only Tiger with a multi-hit game. Chapman took the loss, moving to 3-3 on the season. She lasted 5.1 innings with five strikeouts, while allowing five hits and four walks. Romero picked up the win for Colorado Christian, allowing two runs on five hits and a walk with four strikeouts.
Fort Hays State 1, Oklahoma Baptist 0 (8 innings)
After fighting off some first-inning shakiness in control, Michaelanne Nelson settled in nicely the remainder of her no-hit bid. However, seven innings was not enough to determine a winner, so Nelson had to toss an extra no-hit frame to keep Oklahoma Baptist scoreless and give her team a chance to win in the eight with the international tiebreaker format already in use.
As the home team, Fort Hays State had plenty of opportunities to take a lead or win throughout the regulation seven innings of play, but baserunning mistakes in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings hindered the Tigers from plating runs. In the fifth, the Tigers ran into the third out of the inning trying to take third base on an errant throw from the outfield. OBU recovered in time to make the tag at third. In the sixth with runners at second and first, the runners were not in position to tag on a deep fly ball to left center. A batter later, they tried to swipe third and second on a pitch in the dirt, but the catcher recovered quickly and gunned down the lead runner for FHSU at third. In the seventh, the leadoff hitter reached first and then after stealing second, strayed off the base and was tagged out.
The Tigers even had a great run-scoring opportunity in the fourth, but struggles with situational hitting persisted from game one. With one out and runners at first and third, OBU pitcher Katie Long got out of the jam with an infield pop up and a strikeout.
Nelson was able to work out of some trouble in the first. After getting the first two batters on grounders right back to her, she hit a batter, walked a batter, and hit another to load the bases. However, she got out of the pickle with a fly ball to right field. The only other two baserunners allowed throughout the rest of the game came on walks in the second and fourth innings. Nelson and the Tiger defense nailed the door shut the rest of the way.
Despite the offense struggling to find the winning run for Nelson, she remained poised in the international tiebreak format. OBU had a runner placed on second to start the eighth, but Nelson was able to catch a bunt popped up back to her. She turned and fired to second, nearly getting a double play right out of the gate. From there, she got a pop up to shortstop and then a strikeout looking on the outside corner to preserve her no-hitter through 24 outs.
Katie Adler started the Tiger half of the eighth on second as the last batter to make an out in the seventh. The Tigers were looking to sacrifice her over, but a passed ball allowed Adler to get to third. However, Hannah Gates struck out looking as Adler stood at third with one out. Then Terran Caldwell, the hottest hitter for FHSU on the day, finally delivered the clutch hit FHSU had been looking for throughout the game. She drove a ball into the left-center gap, easily allowing Adler to score from third and gave Nelson and the Tigers the 1-0 win. Caldwell finished the day 5-of-7 at the plate between the two games.
Nelson became the first-ever Tiger to hurl a no-hitter in extra innings during the program's NCAA Division II history, which began in 1999. It was the 13th no-hitter in Division II history for Fort Hays State, while she became the sixth individual in the program's Division II history to throw a complete-game no-hitter. FHSU now has 12 complete-game no hitters in its history and one combined no-hitter. Head coach Adrian Pilkington, then with the last name of Mohr, joined Maddie Holub in the combined no-hitter against Newman University in 2010. Seven of the complete-game no hitters have been in games with a final score of 1-0.
Nelson's gem was the first no-hitter for FHSU since March 21, 2014, when Paxton Duran won a 1-0 battle against Northeastern State in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. In fact, the last three Tiger no-hitters have been thrown against schools from the state of Oklahoma, with the one prior to Duran's being Holub's seventh career no-hitter against Central Oklahoma during the 2013 MIAA Tournament. Nelson had the honor of throwing her first no-hitter as a Tiger in her home state, as she hails from Perry just up the road to the north a bit from the Edmond/Oklahoma City area.
Nelson finished the game with nine strikeouts. Following the walk in the fourth, she retired the last 14 OBU batters she faced and struck out the side in the seventh. She moved to 3-1 on the season with the win.