Tigers fall to Hillcats on play at plate
The Fort Hays State baseball team was on the wrong side of a play at the plate that ultimately decided Friday’s series opener against Rogers State at Larks Park.
With the Tigers trailing by two and runners at second and third with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Drake Angeron sent one through the left side to score a run from third.
But the potential game-tying run was thrown out in a bang-bang play as the Hillcats held on for a 7-6 win.
Pinch runner Jaxson Webb went home on Angeron’s hit and Ed Scott represented the tying run but RSU catcher Jonathan Soto took a good throw from left fielder Prescott Horn, blocked the plate and applied the tag before Scott could slide under it.
It was a stinging loss for the Tigers, who led 5-3 before giving up four runs in the top of the sixth.
“It’s kind of been the story of the year for us so far,” FHSU coach Jerod Goodale said. “Few key mistakes in a few different spots, ball not bouncing your way. … Definitely would like to have that one back. You’ve got to be able to find a way to win that game.”
Things started promisingly enough for the Tigers (2-12, 2-8 MIAA), who jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Kade Wallace led off with a single and went to third on Grant Schmidt’s double. Corbin Truslow then was credited with a double after a ball dropped between Rogers State’s second baseman and right fielder. Schmidt scored on a sacrifice fly from Scott.
But FHSU left the bases loaded after a strikeout, a missed opportunity that Goodale felt ended up looming large.
“We had a chance to knock (RSU starter Jackson Simonsgaard) out, or maybe even get to four (runs) in the first," Goodale said. "We had runners at second and third with two outs, but we’ve got to put the ball in play right there. We strike out. We had all the momentum right there, just give yourself a chance and make them make a play. Unfortunately, we didn’t.
"It feels like all year, in those situations, we’ve needed that one good at-bat — at least put the ball in play and give ourselves a chance."
Rogers State got on the board in the top of the second, and the Tigers answered in the bottom of the frame when Angeron scored on a sacrifice fly from Conner Kessler.
RSU tied it up with two runs in the fourth, fueled by three infield singles. But Fort Hays again answered back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame. Schmidt and Truslow drew walks, and Schmidt scored off a single up the middle by Jacob Bouzide. The Tigers tacked on another run off an RSU error.
Rogers State grabbed the lead off the Tiger bullpen, putting up four runs off three hits and one error in the top of the sixth.
FHSU reliever Jacob Ensz didn’t allow a run in 3.2 innings and surrendered just one hit to keep the Tigers close in the latter innings.
Starter Jake Campbell took a no-decision after allowing three runs on 11 hits and two walks with five strikeouts in five innings. Brayden Smith took the loss for the Tigers, allowing three runs (two earned) on two hits and a walk in 1/3 of an inning.
Simonsgaard took the win for the Hillcats (8-6, 5-5 MIAA). He went five innings, allowing five runs on seven hits with five strikeouts. Reliever C.J. Edwards kept the Tigers off the board for three innings. He was replaced by Jordan Ewig after giving up a leadoff walk to open the bottom of the ninth. Ewig picked up the save thanks to the play at the plate.
“(Simonsgaard) did a good job of settling in for a couple, and we’ve got to do a better job against their reliever they brought in, too," Goodale said.
The Tigers also suffered some tough hitting luck against Edwards.
“Conner Kessler hit one to the track (in the sixth) and (Horn) makes an over-the shoulder, diving catch,” Goodale said. “That could change that inning. And then Grant hit one to right center and I thought that was going to get through. It’s a funny game sometimes.”
Schmidt, Bouzide and Angeron each had two hits for the Tigers, who were outhit 15-10.
RSU’s Christian Merriweather finished 4 for 5 with two runs and one RBI.
The Tigers and Hillcats were set to play a doubleheader on Saturday at Larks Park.
“That one hurts,” Goodale said of Friday’s loss. “The guys, we really wanted it. Both teams did. It was kind of an ugly game at times, but probably an entertaining game to watch. Guys competed well for there being some miscues on both sides. Hopefully that lights a fire under our guys. … We’re going to have to make plays. That’s kind of what it came down to.”