Tiger baseball opens season at MSU Denver
The Fort Hays State baseball team will play its much-awaited season opener on Friday on the road against MSU Denver. The four-game series will run through Sunday, with a doubleheader slated for Saturday afternoon. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. (noon MT) each day.
The Tigers are returning to the diamond for the first time in 344 days after the 2020 season was shut down just six weeks into the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fort Hays State turned in an 11-13 record over the first six weeks of the 2020 season, including a four-game sweep of the Roadrunners in Hays (1/31/20 - 2/2/20). MSU Denver was 7-11 a year ago.
Out of an abundance of caution due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, fan attendance is not permitted inside the Regency Athletic Complex. Free live video and stats will be available via the attached links.
Fort Hays State returns 33 players from last season and has added seven new Tigers this year, including four freshmen and three transfers.
Garrett Stephens led the MIAA with 35 hits in just 24 games, ranking 18th in Division II. He ranked ninth nationally and second in the MIAA with eight home runs. The catcher picked up at least one hit in 18 of 24 games in his first year as a Tiger.
The Tigers return six players who started all 24 games in 2020, including Stephens, Tyler Olson, Grant Schmidt, Griffin Brunson, Corbin Truslow and Drake Angeron.
Fort Hays State returns its entire pitching staff in addition to three new arms. Zach Berg and Padraic Walsh were stalwarts in the rotation in 2020, each starting seven games. Berg struck out 35 over 40.0 innings while Walsh struck out 29 in 21.0 frames. Jacob Ensz pitched in a team-high 12 contests, striking out 43 batters in just 31.1 innings, an average of 21.4 K/9. He ranked seventh in the MIAA in ERA (3.16) while coming in 29th in the nation in strikeouts.
Fort Hays State is 58-35 all-time against MSU Denver, including a 22-16 mark on the road in Denver. The Tigers have won each of the last six matchups, with the last Roadrunner win coming in extra innings early in the 2013 season (2/8/13). FHSU is 4-0 against MSU Denver under head coach Jerod Goodale.
MSU Denver was picked to finish fourth in the nine-team Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC). Three Roadrunners were listed as players to watch in 2021, including utility player Logan Soole, outfielder Chase Anderson and pitcher Cade Crader. Soole was an All-American in 2019 and he holds the school record for strikeouts in a single game (14) and shares the record for RBIs in a single contest (eight). Anderson has a career batting average of .318, totaling 11 home runs, 50 RBI and 19 stolen bases in 70 career games. Crader returns for a second senior season after the shortened 2020 season. He was 2-1 a year ago with a 2.57 ERA over five starts and 28.0 innings pitched while striking out 34 batters.