Tigers fall twice to Mules Friday; Split four-Game series in Hays

After sweeping a doubleheader against Central Missouri on Thursday, Fort Hays State University was swept by Central Missouri on Friday in Hays, having to settle for a four-game split in its first conference series of the season. The Tigers are now 2-4 overall, 2-2 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, while the Mules are 6-5 overall, 2-2 in the MIAA.
Game 1: Central Missouri 5, Fort Hays State 2Game 2: Central Missouri 7, Fort Hays State 5
Fort Hays State had a golden scoring opportunity slip through its hands in the first inning and struggled to find offensive rhythm the remainder of the seven-inning contest on Friday. The Tigers loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning, but Kevin Czarnecki lined out to second base and Austin Unrein grounded into a double play to end the threat.

Central Missouri starting pitcher Jake Heissler settled in from that point to hold the Tigers scoreless over four innings. That was long enough for UCM to build a 5-0 lead, scoring two in the second and three in the third, all charged to FHSU starter Gabe Cook, who lasted 2.1 innings. Cook surrendered seven hits and a walk, while striking out one.

FHSU finally got to Heissler in the fifth as Gus Strunk had a RBI double and Alex King had a sacrifice fly RBI, but runners were left at second and third to end the inning. Grant Gavin of UCM picked up the final two outs of the fifth in relief, then went on to retire the side in the sixth and seventh for his first save of the year. Heissler got the win, moving to 2-0.

Joe Mapes and Chase Newman threw in relief for the Tigers. Mapes allowed three hits and struck out two in 2.1 innings of work, then Newman pitched a spotless 1.1 innings of work. Connor Ross went 2-for-2 at the plate in the game.

The Tigers took a 2-0 lead with a pair of runs in the top of the first, but UCM matched the output in the bottom half and then went on to lead the remainder of the game after a run in the third in the nine-inning contest.

UCM built a 6-2 lead after three runs in the fourth, but FHSU would mount a rally in the seventh with three runs to cut the lead back to one. The rally ended with a bases loaded fielder’s choice on a grounder. That was as close as the Tigers would get as UCM added an insurance run in the bottom half of the seventh on a FHSU error, making it 7-5.

That was plenty for UCM reliever Trevor Ezell, who recorded his fourth save of the season in 2.1 scoreless innings of work. Ezell did not allow a hit and struck out two. UCM starter Ricky Rivera went 6.2 innings to earn the win, allowing five runs on eight hits with four walks and five strikeouts.

FHSU starter Brad Spires was charged with six runs over 3.1 innings of work, allowing four hits and five walks. He struck out five batters, but took the loss moving to 0-2 on the year. Ty Thomas entered from the pen to face one batter, then Will AmenJustin Hersch, and Giles Fox combined to pitch the final 4.2 innings and not allow an earned run.

Andre Vieyra and Caleb Cherryholmes each drove in two runs in the game, while Austin Unrein drove in one. Kevin Czarnecki and Gus Strunk each had two hits in the game.

FHSU returns to MIAA play next weekend (Feb. 27-28,March 1) against Washburn University. The four-game conference series is set to begin on Friday in Hays at 2 p.m.

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