The Fort Hays State University softball team is making a fresh start in 2010.
The young team, led by second-year coach Julie LeMaire, returns only five letter winners from last year. Leading the returning players are juniors Sara Tani and Kayla Rupa and senior Adrian Mohr. Tani was an All-MIAA selection in the outfield while leading the team in batting average (.346) and runs scored (40).
Rupa and Mohr were the team’s starting pitchers on a team that finished 31-33 overall and made the conference tournament, finishing eighth in the conference standings.
FHSU was picked to finish eighth yet again, according to the MIAA preseason coach’s poll. Through four games, the Tigers are 2-2 and ranked second in MIAA standings behind Emporia State.
“We did better than I expected,” LeMaire said. “I thought 2-2 is definitely respectable. Obviously I would have liked for us to do better than that. Taking one from each was good, and exceeded my expectations going in.”
Pitchers Rupa and freshman Maddie Holub are both 1-1 as starters. Holub is one of six freshmen on the team.
“Our upperclassmen are good leaders,” LeMaire said. “I look to Adrian and Kayla to be leaders definitely.”
The Tigers started the year against Regis University in Denver on Friday. The first game belonged to Regis by a score of 9-1 after six innings. Regis hit back-to-back homers to end the game in the sixth. Rupa pitched all nine runs to RU, eight of which were earned. She struck out two and walked four.
The second game against Regis was a complete turnaround, with Fort Hays winning 12-2. Holub threw all five innings in her pitching debut. She struck out three, walked three and allowed only three hits. Both runs were earned. Mohr was the top hitter for the Tigers. She went 5 for 7 through both games for three doubles, three RBIs, three runs and one home run. On Saturday, FHSU returned to Denver, this time against No. 16 Metro State College. The first game resulted in a close 5-3 win for the Tigers. They rallied back with five runs after being down 3-0 in the sixth. Mohr started the game, but was relieved by Rupa after she gave up a home run to start the third inning. Rupa held MSC scoreless to earn her first win of the year. She struck out two and walked one. A pair of singles set up a three-score home run from Holub to tie the game before freshman Trisha Holzman delivered a two-run single with two outs to give them the win.
The second game resulted in a 10-2 win for MSC. Holub struggled, allowing all ten runs. She walked eight, allowed six hits and struck out two.
“I have no doubt in my mind that Maddie will be able to fix it,” LeMaire said. “She’s a great athlete. It’s just a matter of working on things in practice, and when it comes to important games, her getting a handle on it.”
The Tigers were set to play at Colorado School of Mines on Sunday, but the game was cancelled due to inclement weather. Their next action will be the Northeastern State University Classic starting on Friday.
“Our first game out, it was pretty much just first game jitters, opening weekend, whole new team,” LeMaire said. “We made mistakes we wouldn’t normally make. I think it’s just about them getting comfortable with their positions.”