The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

April 12, 2014

Fort Hays powers past softball Lions

Receiving power from unlikely sources, Fort Hays State swept Missouri Southern 9-5 in eight innings and 5-1 in MIAA softball action Friday at Lea Kungle Field.

Callie Wright belted a tiebreaking home run in the eighth inning of the opener — her first of the season and her first since April 16, 2012, a span of 89 games. The homer also gave Wright three runs batted in this season.

Dannie Brinkmann, who had one homer through 39 games this season, connected for a three-run shot in the opener and a two-run blast in the nightcap. Kylie Strand hit a solo homer in the second game, her third of the season.

But Tigers coach Erin Kinberger wasn’t surprised by the power display.

“I always believe in my kids,” Kinberger said. “None of this is unexpected. This is what these kids have been capable of doing all year, what they do every day in practice.”

And neither was Missouri Southern coach Bill Gray.

“Fort Hays State is the best hitting team we’ve played all year,” he said. “They swung the bat. They had a purpose. I don’t how they’ve lost this many games in conference (25-16, 14-8 MIAA). They are a solid hitting ball club. They play good defense, and they got two good pitching performances.”

The Lions (14-30, 6-14 MIAA) battled back from a 5-0 to tie the first game in the late innings, and they came within an eyelash of taking the lead.

The Lions scored their first four runs on four consecutive hits in the fifth. After singles by Chloe Brown and Shelby Romines, Dawn Grass doubled to left-center to score both. Kathryn Goins followed with a homer to straightaway center, her fourth of the season.

Singles by Jessica Castoe and Brown gave the Lions two baserunners with two outs in the sixth. Romines’ line drive glanced off shortstop Kellsi Olsen’s glove, allowing the tying run to score. Grass then lined a single to right field, but Madison Putman’s throw to the plate retired Brown on a close play.

Wright, the Tigers’ No. 8 hitter, led off the eighth with a homer over the fence in left-center field. Four batters later, Brinkmann’s line drive down the left-field line cleared the fence for a 9-5 advantage.

Brinkmann also hit a sacrifice fly in the third and finished the game with three hits and four RBI. Amanda Vaupel also contributed three hits to the Tigers’ 16-hit attack.

Brown went 3-for-5 for the Lions, and Grass, Goins and Castoe contributed two hits apiece.

After combining for 28 hits in the first game, the Tigers and Lions had 13 hits in the second game.

Kelsey Kimminau (9-6) limited the Lions to six hits, struck out six batters and retired 17 of the final 19 batters she faced. She was aided by some defensive gems, including second baseman Courtney Dobson’s diving stop on Brooke Swadley’s grounder to help squelch a threat in the second inning and center fielder Amanda Vaupel’s diving catch to rob Brown of an extra-base hit in the sixth.

 “(Kimminau) threw a good game in Game 2, and we knocked the tar out of the ball,” Gray said. “The center fielder dives for a ball over her head ... seriously? The shortstop catches a ball she should have never caught. The second baseman catches a ball that should never have been caught. We hit the ball hard ourselves.”

Singles by Goins, Brooklyn Farrell and Rachel Harding produced a second-inning run that gave the Lions a 1-1 tie. But Samantha Villarreal’s RBI single put the Tigers back on top in the third, and the homers by Strand and Brinkmann accounted for the final three runs.

“We played our butts off and we lost,” Gray said. “Tip your hat to Fort Hays.

“Losing is not what we set out to do, especially when we’re struggling like we have been. But the most fun I’ve had coaching this team this year was the second game, because they came to play. Hopefully (today) on Senior Day we can play just like we did (Friday).”

The Lions’ four seniors — Farrell, Brown, Romines and Grass — will be honored before today’s noon doubleheader against Nebraska-Kearney.

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