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Tigers fall in regional title game

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University junior third baseman Danie Brinkmann compared the resumes of Tiger senior ace Maddie Holub with University of Central Oklahoma junior ace Kalynn Shrock after Sunday’s NCAA Division II tournament game.

Holub collected MIAA Pitcher and Player of the Year honors, while Shrock was a second team all-conference selection.

“Honestly, in my opinion, Maddie got Pitcher of the Year and first team all-conference for a reason,” Brinkmann said. “I think Maddie can outpitch Shrock any day of the week.”

However, in the last two days, Fort Hays had trouble making adjustments to Shrock’s left-handed offerings. Holub struggled mightily in both games, including a 7-1 FHSU defeat Sunday at Tiger Stadium.

“I feel like we have had such a great fight throughout the entire year,” second-year coach Erin Kinberger said of her team that ranked No. 10 nationally and first in the Central Region. “Today we just couldn’t put runs on the board.”

The contest ended Fort Hays’ season at 47-12, easily the greatest year in program history. UCO advanced to its second straight Super Regional and moved to 45-11. The Bronchos will play host to seventh-seeded Winona State (Minn.) University next weekend. Fort Hays went 2-2 in the tournament with both losses to the Bronchos. UCO outscored its three opponents 20-4.

“It’s a new team, so I am surprised that they have been so poised,” UCO coach Genny Stidham said.

Saturday, Holub worked the second shortest start of her outstanding career when she allowed eight runs (four runs) in two thirds of an inning in an 11-3 run-rule loss to UCO. On Sunday, Holub threw 25 pitches, faced seven hitters and retired one batter. She allowed four runs (two earned) on three hits. Holub finished 29-4 with a 1.09 earned-run average.

“A little bit of its emotional,” Holub said of her struggles. “It’s always going to be when you are in the position I am in. Umpires called a tight zone. They just came out hacking. They just came out and attacked me both days.”

Holub, 77-31 with a 1.97 ERA and a .372 average with 46 homers and 160 RBIs in four years, finished with more than 20 school records. Usually not an emotional person, Holub showed tears several times in the postgame award ceremony, especially when she hugged Kinberger down the first base line. Holub, with the team motto “19 strong” written on her forearm, stayed on the field with her teammates after the game for pictures and embraces.

 “It’s hard to go,” Holub said. “It’s certainly emotional, but I tried to keep as clear mind as I could in that moment and stay strong for my team, and try not to put tears on for everybody, but I had a great career and had a great team that I went out with."

“Like I told them in the huddle, if I was going to go out with anybody, I would want it to be this team and this year,” she added. “I couldn’t be prouder of what we did this year.”

Shrock, a transfer from NCAA Division I University of Tulsa, worked three complete games and allowed just four runs in 19 innings. Shrock (28-6) worked the outside corner against Fort Hays on Saturday and mainly went inside on Sunday.

“I think that’s what kept them off-balance,” said Shrock, holding the game ball in the postgame news conference.

She struck out six, allowed three hits and one unearned run in the sixth inning.

“I think we maybe still a little overaggressive for the umpire’s strike zone,” Kinberger said. “I think the umpires all week have been completely opposite of what we have seen all year. I think every coach has sat here and has probably said the same thing. It’s not an excuse. We should make an adjustment. We should have had a little bit more focus at the plate.”

In the first inning, freshman second baseman Ally Dziadula led off with a full count walk. Then, sophomore outfielder Kaylee Brunson bunted down the third base line, but Brinkmann threw wild to first and everyone was safe. Dziadula and Brunson, strong all weekend, went 2 of 5 with two walks and four runs scored.

“That’s extremely key,” Stidham said. “Your 1 and 2 hole have to be on so your 3, 4 and 5 hole can hit them in, and they definitely did their jobs.”

After a popup, Holub hit sophomore third baseman Nicole Workman to load the bases. On a 1-0 pitch, freshman right fielder Sam Cool hit a check swing single back up the middle that scored two runs.

First baseman Hayley Hudson followed with a run-scoring single to center field, and freshman catcher Tori Collet blopped a RBI single over first base. At that point, Kinberger pulled Holub, ended the senior’s outstanding career and effectively the game.

“I did what I could do in that moment, and they just put up hits,” Holub said.