– W. Connor Ross
***The writer is enrolled in Comm 240 News Reporting.***
Tiger fans came out in bunches on Friday night, March 28, for the annual “Pack the Park” baseball game held at Larks Park.
The gates opened at 6 p.m., with the first 200 fans waiting to secure free T-shirts. The number of shirts proved not nearly enough for the 612
Tiger fans who came out to see a slug fest that Fort Hays State lost 8-6 to conference rival Emporia State University.
ESU hammered out 14 hits en route to the victory in game one of a four-game series. The Tigers had nine hits by six different players.
Tyler Patty started the game on the mound for the Tigers. Patty lasted 6.1 innings and tied a Tiger record by recording nine strikeouts in the contest. Patty gave up nine hits and allowed two walks.
Tiger senior Captain Clayton Garland said it was a fun game to play under the lights in front of several hundred fans. “They created an energetic atmosphere, and we played off of their intensity as fans,” Garland said.
With family fun activities all around the stadium, there was plenty to do for fans of all ages. Young Tiger fans could enjoy the two bouncy castles just inside the gate, or run around with friends and play catch or tag in the open space behind the home team dugout.
Stan Harris, Hays resident, said, “It is good having so many fans come out and see the new team in action. I come to most of the home games; and I think it would create a home field advantage for us if we had a crowd like this more often.”
Fans with more adult tastes were enjoying the concession stand, which sold hot dogs, hamburgers, and cans of beer for just $1.
Junior outfielder and third baseman Kevin Czarnecki said, “It was a fun experience as a college athlete to play in front of a big home fan base.” Czarnecki had all of the 612 fans on their feet cheering when he hit a homerun in the bottom of the fourth inning to take the lead back at 4-3.
Czarnecki’s homerun came right after senior Horace Johnson hit his second homerun of the night, a two-run homer that tied up the game.
The fans were into the game for all nine innings, trying to rally FHSU to victory in the bottom of the eighth inning when the Tigers had two runners on base and one out. But ESU held tough and allowed only one run to score.
The Tigers bounced back on Saturday, March 29, and took a split of two seven-inning games. The Tigers won the final game of the series on Sunday, March 30, by a score of 6-3. The Tigers are now 9-18 overall and 8-16 in conference.