BY FHSU SPORTS INFORMATION
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Fort Hays State Softball saw its 2021 season come to a close on Friday (May 7) in the MIAA Tournament Best-of-3 series against Rogers State. The Hillcats won both game one and two on Friday to clinch a spot in next weekend’s final four of the MIAA Tournament in Edmond, Oklahoma. RSU won game one 3-2 on a walk-off home run in the second extra inning, then held on in the nightcap 4-1. Fort Hays State closed its season at 24-22, finishing with a winning mark for the second straight year.
Game 1: Rogers State 3, Fort Hays State 2 (9 inn.)
Fort Hays State put together a 2-out rally in the sixth inning of the first contest to eventually force extra innings. The Tigers could not capitalize on their leadoff batter reaching second to start the ninth inning on a fielding error and then Elexis Watson provided a walk-off home run down the left field line in the bottom half of the inning to give Rogers State the win.
Following a leadoff walk by Katie Adler at the start of the game, MIAA Pitcher of the Year Andrea Morales of Rogers State was unhittable for nearly six innings. She retired 17 straight Tigers following Adler reaching base and, in the meantime, Rogers State built a 2-0 lead. Watson gave the Hillcats their first run of the game in the second inning with an RBI double to the right-center gap and then Jaylan Gibson hit a solo homer in the fifth.
The Tigers finally rattled Morales in the sixth inning with two outs when Katie Adler broke up a no-hit bid with a single to left-center field. Lily Sale dumped a well-placed hit down the right field line for a double, giving the Tigers runners at second and third. Loren Beggs then delivered a clutch two-out laser hit into the left center gap, scoring Adler and Sale to tie the game.
The Tigers had opportunities to break through for the lead. In the seventh, Grace Philop singled and moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt by Kristen Reed. However, Morales got back-to-back strikeouts to end the Tiger threat. In the ninth, Beggs reached by error to begin the inning but was stranded at second.
Michaelanne Nelson pitched well for the Tigers despite the pair of home runs. She allowed only five hits and walked three in her complete-game effort, finishing with seven strikeouts. Morales finished with four hits allowed with a walk and struck out 14, moving to 22-5 on the season.
Game 2: Rogers State 4, Fort Hays State 1
The Hillcats took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning and added on with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. The Tigers tried to mount a late comeback effort in the seventh and had the potential go-ahead run at the plate, but a groundout ended the game with the bases loaded.
Abigail Taylor brought home both runs in the first inning for Rogers State on a 2-RBI single. Brielle Tyseling added an RBI single in the fourth and Danelle Day had an RBI single in the fifth.
Fort Hays State threatened in the fourth when Elise Capra and Jessica Espinoza started the inning with back-to-back singles. Capra took an extra base on Espinoza’s single and then Espinoza stole second. Terran Caldwell then hit a grounder to the shortstop who chose to throw home to cut down Capra. Though it looked as though Capra slid under the tag in time, the umpire called out, then Espinoza and Caldwell both tried to take extra bases on delayed advancements and were thrown out as well. The chaotic play squashed the Tiger momentum when the RSU lead was just 2-0.
In the seventh, the Tigers built a rally once again as Capra led off with a single to complete a 3-for-3 game at the plate. Terran Caldwell then drove her home for the only Tiger run with an RBI single. Katie Adler was hit by a pitch and then the Hillcats committed an error off the bat of Lily Sale to load the bases. However, a ground out ended the game and the season for the Tigers as they had the tying run on first and the potential go-ahead run at the plate.
Hailey Chapman threw a complete game for the Tigers, allowing four runs on eight hits and four walks. She struck out three. M’Kayla Hillman threw a complete game for the Hillcats as well, allowing eight hits and one walk. She struck out five.
It was the final game for several Tiger seniors who closed out the season by making their first MIAA Tournament appearances. Several of the Tiger seniors played well over 100 games in their careers, including fifth-year senior Lily Sale who set the new career record for games played at FHSU at 224. Along with Sale, Hailey Chapman, Katie Adler, Grace Philop, Terran Caldwell, Megan Jamison, Michaelanne Nelson, Haley Fox, Hannah Gates, and Lexi Kagan all closed out their careers as Tigers.