Tiger softball cherishes Senior Day sweep of RiverHawks
The Fort Hays State softball team couldn't have scripted a better way to honor a huge senior class.
The Tigers made it a memorable senior day, sweeping Northeastern State with wins of 5-3 and 2-0 on Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
"The best way to honor (the seniors) is to come out and play great games, and they did just that," FHSU coach Adrian Pilkington said.
The Tigers recognized 13 seniors, including three players who ended their careers last season after seeing their final year get cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2021 senior class is comprised of Grace Philop, Haley Fox, Hannah Gates, Terran Caldwell, Michaelanne Nelson, Lily Sale, Katie Adler, Megan Jamison, Lexi Kagan, and Hailey Chapman.
"There's a couple of them that have really been through the wringer and been with this program and all the ups and downs," Pilkington said. "Hailey Chapman and Lily Sale have really been around and kind of been through some tough times with us.
"It's a really special group. A lot of big contributors to this program."
The 2020 seniors included Alexis Velazquez, Jeni Mohr and Bailey Boxberger.
"They are very much a part of our building blocks and our tradition and our success now," Pilkington said. "If we didn't have them we wouldn't be where we are today."
Nelson picked up her 10th victory of the season with a complete game in Saturday's twinbill opener. She gave up nine hits and walked three, but worked out of jams and finished with eight strikeouts.
Chapman then followed it up with another complete game. She gave up five hits and walked just one to notch her third shutout of the season and 11th victory.
"I tried to keep the emotions out of it, because I knew if I came out here thinking this could be my last game on this field I was going to be a sobbing mess," Chapman said. "I just tried to keep the same mentality as my last game, worry about the next pitch, worry about things I can control."
Chapman said having a big crowd full of family members helped the Tigers play loose.
"It's amazing to get everyone and their families out here," she said. "I think everyone plays a little bit more lighter, a little bit more free, when their families are here, just because they know they have that support system."
The wins moved Fort Hays State (22-18, 15-7 MIAA) into third place in the MIAA standings and locked up a spot in the MIAA Tournament.
The Tigers can also earn the right to host a first-round, three-game series in the conference tournament if they finish in the top four of the standings.
In the first game, the Tigers jumped out a 4-0 lead in the first inning, highlighted by a 3-run home run from Loren Beggs.
Beggs also came up huge in the second game, having a hand in both runs. She slid home safely on a wild pitch in the fourth inning, and then delivered a solo home run in the sixth inning.
"Loren had a great day for us today," Pilkington said. "Offensively, obviously Loren has that power potential when she gets a hold of one. She did a great job of pitch selection and getting the ones she wanted.
"And then obviously it was a great slide going into home to get away from that tag."
The sweep gave the Tigers three out of four games on the weekend. They split Friday's doubleheader against Rogers State.
FHSU plays road doubleheaders at Newman and Central Oklahoma this weekend.
"We knew it was going to be a challenge, but 3 of 4 is a really good weekend for us," Pilkington said. "We're pleased."