Softball drops pair of non-conference games at Nebraska-Kearney

Just one day after Fort Hays State swept rival Nebraska-Kearney in Hays, Nebraska-Kearney returned the favor on Sunday in a non-conference doubleheader to close out the regular season. UNK won by scores of 7-3 and 6-3 in its final games of the season, while Fort Hays State moves on to the MIAA Tournament next week in Overland Park.

FHSU picked up the necessary wins to make the MIAA Tournament on Saturday in the designated conference games against UNK, but the Lopers evened the season series with the Tigers on Sunday. Without a win on Sunday, the Tigers were kept from securing a winning record for the season, now back at one game over .500 overall at 26-25.

The Tigers now turn their focus to playing spoiler at the MIAA Tournament on Thursday as the No. 8 seed. FHSU takes on No. 1 seed Central Missouri at 6 pm and then will take on either the No. 4 seed Missouri Western or No. 5 seed Northwest Missouri State in their second game of the evening at 8 p.m. The tournament is a double-elimination format. The tournament’s champion earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Game 1: Nebraska-Kearney 7, Fort Hays State 3

Much like game one in Hays on Saturday, the Tigers fell into a big hole early. Only this time, they could not recover in a 7-3 loss. With two outs and the bases loaded in the first inning, UNK plated four runs by getting a hit-by-pitch, walk, and then two-RBI single. FHSU starting pitcher Savannah Price could not escape the jam and Paxton Duran entered in relief to get the final out of the inning. Duran went on to surrender three runs in the third on an RBI double and a two-run home run.

Down 7-0, the Tigers finally pushed their first run across in the fifth on an RBI fielder’s choice by Rilee Krier. The Tigers put together a potential big rally in the seventh, loading the bases with one out. Tori Beltz drew a walk to force in a run, then Samantha Villarreal had an RBI on a fielder’s choice. That was all the Tigers could push across.

Cassie Roessing, after allowing nine earned runs to the Tigers on Saturday, gave up only three on Sunday. She allowed seven hits and four walks, while striking out four. She finished her year in the circle at 15-10 for the Lopers. The Tigers stranded eight baserunners in the game.

Game 2: Nebraska-Kearney 6, Fort Hays State 3

Fort Hays State built a 3-0 lead through the first inning and a half of game two, but Nebraska-Kearney scored four in the second and then held on the rest of the way to close out its season.

Erin Elmore drove home a pair of runs in the first inning and then Madison Putman hit the first home run of her collegiate career in the second inning to make it 3-0. FHSU loaded the bases with one out in the second, but failed to get any more runs across. That would prove costly as the Loper bats woke up the next half inning.

A two-out, three-run homer by Paige Hamelin of UNK quickly turned the momentum in the bottom of the second, putting the Lopers out in front 4-3 after an RBI single earlier in the inning. From that point, the Tigers could not push a run across against UNK starter Meg Housholder, who moved to 4-13 on the season with the win. Housholder, who entered the weekend with an ERA near 9.00, allowed just one earned to the Tigers on Saturday in a loss and then just three on Sunday in a win. The Tigers stranded 13 runners on base in the game, a big reason why they could not gain a split in the regular season finale. FHSU averages 7.1 runners left on base per game for the season.

UNK tacked on a pair of runs in the sixth to push its advantage to 6-3. FHSU starter Kelsey Kimminau moved to 13-10 on the season with the loss. She allowed six hits and four walks with three strikeouts.

The Tigers look to put Sunday’s losses behind them and focus on the MIAA Tournament this coming weekend in Overland Park.

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