Fort Hays State prevailed in an offensive slugfest on Thursday afternoon (Apr. 3) at Central Oklahoma by a score of 21-19. The Tigers snapped Central Oklahoma’s 11-game home win streak and won its fourth straight game, moving to 11-18 overall and 9-16 in the MIAA. Central Oklahoma moved to 22-8 overall and 17-8 in the MIAA.
The 40 runs produced by the two teams were most in a Fort Hays State game since April 22, 2011 when Fort Hays State and Nebraska-Omaha combined for 46 at Larks Park (FHSU fell in that game 26-20 in 10 innings). The 21 runs by Fort Hays State were second-most under head coach Steve Johnson. The most was 25 against Pittsburg State in a 25-5 win in 2012.
Clayton Garland got the scoring started in the top of the first with a RBI double, but UCO responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first to lead by one. After UCO added two more in the second to make it 4-1, the Tigers answered back with four runs in the top of the third to take a 5-4 lead. Horace Johnson had a sacrifice fly RBI to pull the Tigers within two and a three-run Cooper Langley home run pushed the Tigers in front.
The lead changed hands once again in the fourth when UCO plated four runs, taking the lead back at 8-5. However, the Tigers had a big response to that with 11 runs in the top of the fifth, thanks to a UCO error that ballooned into 10 unearned runs. Garland opened the inning with a single and came in to score with one out on a Kevin Czarnecki RBI single. With two outs and the bases loaded, UCO committed an error off the bat of Austin Unrein that should have been the end of the inning, but two runs scored on the error and tied the game at 8-8.
Following the error, Jordan Miller had a RBI bunt single to put the Tigers in front 9-8 and Gus Strunk followed with a RBI single to make it 10-8. Garland walked in his second plate appearance of the inning and then Johnson cleared the bases with a three-RBI double to make it 13-8. Johnson came in to score on a play where the Bronchos made two errors, pushing the score to 14-8, then Langley hit his second homer of the game, a two-run shot, to make it 16-8.
In the sixth, the Tigers tacked on five more runs. FHSU opened the frame with a hit by pitch and two walks to load the bases. Strunk followed with a RBI single and then Garland pushed in another run with a bases-loaded walk. Miller came home on a wild pitch and then Johnson had a RBI groundout and Czarnecki had a RBI single, making it 21-8 in favor of FHSU going to the bottom of the sixth.
Unfortunately, that would be the end of the scoring for FHSU and UCO did not go quietly. A two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth made it 21-10. The Tigers had a chance to end the game in the seventh by run-rule, leading by 11, but UCO put that notion to bed quickly with a single, a runner reaching by error, and a three-run homer immediately making it 21-13. A solo homer and a two-RBI single later in the inning cut into the lead even more, making it 21-16 heading to the eighth.
UCO kept the pressure on in the bottom of the eighth, the first batter reaching by error and then coming around to score later on another error. Three singles later, the Bronchos had trimmed the lead to 21-18, but a strikeout-caught stealing combo ended the threat.
The Bronchos had a full head of steam going into the bottom of the ninth and started the inning with a double and single to put runners at first and third immediately. But reliever Gabe Cook was up to the challenge as he limited the Bronchos to a sacrifice fly to make it 21-19, then got a strikeout and a flyout to end the game earning his third save of the season. All three of his saves have been in the current four-game win streak for the Tigers.
Fort Hays State used five pitchers in the game. Starter Steven Federau went 2.0 innings, allowing four runs on six hits. Joe Mapes relieved for 1.1 innings, allowing four runs (two earned) on two hits and a walk. Nathan Briar, who picked up the win in relief (now 2-1), allowed seven runs (five earned) on eight hits with one strikeout in 3.0 innings of work. Nick Hammeke went 0.2 innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on four hits with one strikeout. Cook finished the game for FHSU, going 2.0 innings with one run allowed on three hits, but struck out three.
Central Oklahoma used seven pitchers in the game. Starter Landon Hallam lasted 2.2 innings, allowing four runs on two hits and three walks, but struck out three. Andrew Davis relieved for 1.1 innings and allowed one run on one hit with a strikeout. Tyler Price, who took the loss (now 1-1), allowed five runs (one earned) on three hits and a walk with two strikeouts in 0.2 innings. Joe Hollowell went 0.1 innings and allowed six runs (zero earned) on four hits and a walk with one strikeout. Will Kilpatrick could not record an out and was charged with five runs on one hit with three walks. Dennis Morelli stopped the bleeding for UCO by going 3.0 scoreless innings with two hits and two strikeouts. Tanner Ferrell pitched a clean ninth inning, recording two strikeouts.
The teams combined for nine errors in the game (5 for FHSU, 4 for UCO), making a total of 16 unearned runs in the game. The Tigers took advantage of eight walks and four hit-by-pitches as they only produced 13 hits in the game in comparison to their 21 runs. With the Tigers allowing just one walk and one hit batter in the game, UCO had 23 hits to go with its 19 runs.
Horace Johnson and Cooper Langley led FHSU with five RBI each. Gus Strunk, Clayton Garland and Kevin Czarnecki all had two and Jordan Miller added one.
Matt Johnson led UCO with four RBI, while three other Bronchos had three RBI.
The teams return to action on Friday in a doubleheader, starting at 1:30 pm in Edmond.