Junior pitcher Kayla Rupa took a line drive to her left kneecap off the first batter in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader against the University of Nebraska-Omaha at Tiger Stadium.
Rupa fell to the ground writhing in pain before limping off the field. After spending only a moment in the dugout, she asked to return to the mound.
Upon her return, Rupa forced a ground out and struck out the next two batters. She pitched the first five innings and gave up only two hits and no runs.
“I was there to prove something,” Rupa said. “I took a shot in the knee, and any other pitcher would have sat out the rest of the game.”
However, struggles in the sixth and seventh innings resulted in her picking up the loss. She surrendered three runs in the sixth inning and a run in the seventh.
“I wish we would have won this game to really have proved something,” Rupa said.
Offensive droughts and late inning struggles were a reoccurring pattern for the Tigers on Saturday as Fort Hays State University (5-7 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association, 18-14) lost game one and game two 2-1 and 4-0, respectively, with all six of UNO’s runs coming in the final two innings.
“It is frustrating that we can’t play better,” Rupa said. “I don’t think it is a lack of talent or anything. We just think, ‘all right, that is enough,’ instead of ‘we need to get more.’ ”
UNO (9-2 MIAA, 29-9), who leads the conference in scoring difference, held FHSU’s offense in check all day.
The Tigers’ top two batters, senior Adrian Mohr and freshman Maddie Holub, couldn’t put together a string of hits. Mohr had no hits off six at bats, while Holub recorded only one hit off seven at bats.
Mohr, who leads the team with a .398 batting average and .759 slugging percentage, has struggled so far in the month of April against conference opponents, posting a .207 batting average.
Head Coach Julie LeMaire said now that they are midway into the conference season, teams are approaching Mohr and Holub differently.
“They are not going to go right at (Mohr and Holub),” LeMaire said. “They aren’t going to throw pitches down the middle or on the outside corner waist-high.”
“They are starting to pitch around them, and those two are so used to being aggressive that now we are aggressive on bad pitches. They are handling us like they should. They are not allowing the heart of our lineup to do the job that they have been doing.”
In game one, the Tigers started off hot, posting a pair of hits in the first inning, and junior outfielder Sara Tani scored the Tigers’ lone run of the day.
The Tigers held the 1-0 lead until the top of the sixth when UNO’s Emma Wright doubled to left field. Mohr dove to cut it off but missed, and a run was scored to tie the game.
“Adrian is one of our better outfielders,” LeMaire said. “She is a great athlete. It is kind of 50-50 with her. There are days where she is going to come up with that cutoff and days where it is going to get past on her.”
FHSU put itself in a position to reclaim the lead in the bottom of the sixth. The Tigers had three hits, but they were unable to salvage a run.
UNO extended the lead in the seventh with another run off an RBI single, but FHSU was unable to answer in the bottom of the seventh.
“I think it was just an off day,” Rupa said. “We were aggressive, but we weren’t smart-aggressive.”
Holub recorded the loss and dropped to 8-7 on the season. She pitched seven innings, struck out 11 batters and surrendered nine hits and two runs.
Though Holub suffered the loss, LeMaire said she was pleased with her progress.
“We have been working on it with Maddie to work through some pressure situations a little bit better than she has been,” LeMaire said. “I thought today she did a great job. She was really working well with the bases loaded or having two or three runners on quite a few different times.”
In game two, the Tigers faced the conference’s No. 2 ERA leader Lindsey Slocum. She is 11-2 as a pitcher and has a 1.74 ERA.
FHSU struggled to hit anything off her, posting only three hits off 25 at bats.
“We aren’t smart-aggressive anymore,” LeMaire said. “We are letting some pitches in our zone get by, but we are swinging at the ones going past our shoulders. It is one of those days where we tried to do too much, and it ended up backfiring.”
On Friday, the Tigers split with Northwest Missouri State University (3-7 MIAA, 17-16), run-ruling NWMSU in game one 14-0, but losing game two 6-4.
“I think we just got thought they were going to lay down and die even though coach told us they were not,” Rupa said. “I think we just got satisfied.”
FHSU will compete in a tournament this weekend hosted by NWMSU in Maryville, Mo.
The Tigers will play Southwest Baptist University (2-8 MIAA, 15-23) and Pittsburg State University (2-10 MIAA, 15-20-1) at noon and 2 p.m. on Friday, the University of Central Missouri (5-3 MIAA, 18-13) at noon on Saturday, and Emporia State University (12-0 MIAA, 34-7) and Missouri Southern State University (4-8 MIAA, 14-28-1) at 10 a.m. and noon on Sunday.