Baseball sweeps Highlands to open series


The Fort Hays State baseball team extended its winning streak to seven games after sweeping a doubleheader against New Mexico Highlands Saturday (Feb. 17) at Larks Park. The Tigers are now 8-2 on the season, their best 10-game start since winning nine of their first 10 to open the 2010 season. The Cowboys dip to 0-10 on the year.

A dazzling start from Cade Flaherty helped the Tigers to a 6-0 win in the opener, while the Tigers had to rally from behind to capture the nightcap, 7-5.

Elliott Herrmann led the Tigers with four hits on the day, including his fourth home run of the year. Zane Knoxand Kyle Morrell also left the yard with home runs.

The Tigers and Cowboys will wrap up the series Sunday (Feb. 18) with another doubleheader beginning at noon.

Game One – Fort Hays State 6, New Mexico Highlands 0
Flaherty (2-0) set the tone from the start, retiring the first 10 batters he faced, including five strikeouts. The Tigers managed baserunners in each of the first two innings but were unable to score until the third when Morrell and Luis Ayala worked back-to-back walks to start the inning.

Trey DeGarmo later stepped up to the plate with two outs and delivered an RBI single to left, plating the first run of the game. Herrmann kept the line moving two batters later with a two-RBI single through the left side, putting FHSU up 3-0.

NMHU managed its first two baserunners in the fourth on a single and a hit-by-pitch, but the Tiger defense got out of the inning with the first of three double plays.

Fort Hays State added an unearned run in the fifth following a double off the bat of Herrmann, giving the home team a 4-0 lead. The Tigers pushed across two more in the sixth when Morrell hit his first home run as a Tiger before Brady Kreutzer crushed a stand-up triple to straightaway center, plating Ayala.

The Cowboys managed a pair of baserunners again in both the sixth and seventh innings, but the Tiger defense came up with inning-ending double plays in both frames to secure the shutout.

Flaherty allowed just six baserunners in a complete-game shutout, striking out seven and allowing three hits and two walks in seven scoreless innings.

Morrell and Herrmann both collected two base hits in the game, while Ayala, DeGarmo and Morrell all scored two runs each.

Game Two – Fort Hays State 7, New Mexico Highlands 5
Fort Hays State again struck first in game two, plating a run in the bottom of the first after DeGarmo worked a one-out walk. The third baseman then swiped second and moved up an additional 90 feet on a wild pitch before scampering home on an RBI groundout from Isaiah Ural.

New Mexico Highlands tied things up in the second with a two-out base hit, but the Tigers answered right back in the bottom of the inning when Knox led off with his second home run of the season. FHSU pushed the lead to 3-1 in the third when Herrmann mashed a line-drive rocket over the wall in right center.

After retiring the side in order in the third, Tiger starter Tanner Vaughn issued a leadoff walk in the top of the fourth that eventually came around to score on a groundout. A pair of two-out walks led to a bases-clearing, three-RBI double for the Cowboys in the top of the fifth, handing NMHU its first lead of the day and forcing the Tigers to go to the bullpen.

Spencer Maley was the first man out of the pen for the Tigers, escaping the fifth without further damage before working around a leadoff single in the sixth by striking out the final two batters of the inning.

The Tiger offense took advantage of multiple miscues in the sixth, scoring four runs without recording a hit. Two batters were walked and two more were hit by a pitch, with the first run coming in to score on a wild pitch and the next two crossing the plate on a throwing error following a swinging strikeout, putting the Tigers back up 6-5. Jose Cintron added an insurance run with a sacrifice fly to center, plating Ural.

Maley then allowed a pair of free passes to start the seventh inning, prompting FHSU to bring in Ty Riley to clean things up. The tall right-hander did just that, forcing a lazy fly ball before striking out the next two batters to get out of the inning.

Fort Hays State was unable to get anything going off NMHU reliever Jace Dominic in the seventh or eighth, putting the pressure on Riley to shut things down on the mound. The Bentonville, Ark. native came through, stranding a pair of runners in the eighth before leaving the bases loaded in the ninth with a called third strike for the final out of the game.

Riley picked up his second save of the season after striking out six batters across three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and three walks. Vaughn tossed 4.2 innings in the start, allowing five runs on five hits and three walks while striking out six. Maley struck out two batters and gave up just one hit in his 1.1 innings of relief.

Herrmann collected two of the five Tiger hits in game two, while DeGarmo again scored two runs in the win.