The Fort Hays State baseball team played to a 23-26 record last season, starting the year 6-5 in non-conference action before finishing 17-21 in MIAA play. The Tigers won six of their first nine games last season and closed the year 6-1 over the last two weeks of the year, with four-straight to finish things off.
The Tigers ranked fifth in the conference with a .314 team batting average, and were also one of four teams to strike out fewer than 300 times. Pitching was a struggle at times for FHSU, finishing the year with a 7.06 ERA.
Seven Tigers received All-MIAA postseason awards, including a pair of returning infielders.
Nick Hammeke picked up honorable mention accolades after batting .285 with 10 doubles, 31 runs, 25 RBI and nine stolen bases. The shortstop recorded a .938 fielding percentage after starting all 49 games.
Third baseman Alex Weiss also earned honorable mention status, leading the team with a .367 batting average. Weiss added 40 RBI, 36 runs, seven doubles and four home runs while fielding at a .958 clip.
14 players are back from last year’s roster, including four sophomores, four juniors and six seniors. An additional seven players are back after redshirting during the 2016 season.
The Tigers will look to fill five vacancies in the everyday lineup this year, including first base, designated hitter and all three outfield positions. In addition to Hammeke and Weiss, potential impact players returning that saw significant playing time last season include Clayton Basgall, Jace Bowman, Trevor Hughes and Ty Redington (pictured). Bowman, Hughes and Redington are all seniors, while Basgall is starting his junior season.
Basgall was a part of the rotating cast of starters at second last season, making 18 starts at the position. The junior hit three home runs in 65 at bats, batting .262 and driving in 11 runs.
Bowman found himself in the starting lineup nine times last season, including eight starts at second base and one as the designated hitter. Appearing in just 18 games, he hit .229 with two doubles, four runs and six RBI.
Hughes started 22 games behind the plate and came off the bench in six other games for the Tigers. He recorded a .291 batting average on the year, clubbing five doubles and one home run while driving in 12 runs and scoring eight of his own.
Redington was listed on the lineup card in all 49 games, splitting time between catcher and second base. He led the team with 22 steals, batting .239 with 39 runs, 12 RBI and two home runs.
The Tigers will look to replace all three of their primary starters from last season with D.J. Carr and Kyle Vogt graduating and Logan Herd utilizing his redshirt season. Senior Justin Hersch made four starts last season, but was shut down due to an injury before using a medical redshirt.
In addition to chipping in at second base, Clayton Basgall also contributes on the mound, making 14 appearances and one start. He tossed 23.1 innings on the year, finishing with a 9.26 ERA and 13 strikeouts.
Connor Boyer came on in relief 12 times last season, also making one start. Boyer struck out nine batters in 11.0 innings of work, posting a 12.27 ERA.
Tyler Renninson made four appearances as a redshirt-freshman, tossing 3.0 innings and striking out three batters on the year.
Jackson Rolfs (pictured) made 18 appearances last season, tossing the most innings out of the bullpen on the team (29.2 innings). Rolfs finished 4-1 with one save, posting a 5.46 ERA while striking out 18 batters.
A total of 19 newcomers are joining the Tiger family this season, including 10 transfers and nine freshmen. With the sheer volume of players lost after last season, there will be plenty of opportunity for a number of fresh faces to jump in and contribute right away for the club.
Head coach Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson enters his seventh season as the skipper at Fort Hays State, carrying a 139-152 record with the Tigers. He has now led the team to 20+ wins four times, and looks to coach the squad to the postseason for the first time since 2013.