Nothing could quiet Sam Tewes’ nerves in the hours in the hours leading up to his first collegiate start at Wichita State.
The uneasiness lingered up until Tewes, a freshman from Lincoln, Neb., trotted out to the mound on Tuesday afternoon. There he found that no matter what state he was in — Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri — his home was on the mound.
Tewes didn’t look new to this level, starting his career with four straight 1-2-3 innings and finishing with 4 1/3 innings pitched without allowing a hit in WSU’s 9-6 victory over Central Arkansas. The Shockers improved to 4-0.
“When I got on the mound, I got in the zone and things just started happening,” Tewes said. “After you get all the nerves out, it comes down to just pitching. And pitching is what I do best, I guess.”
Tewes didn’t necessarily overpower hitters with a fastball that topped out at 92 mph, but he complemented it with an array of off-speed pitches that kept Central Arkansas’ hitters guessing.
If it wasn’t for a bullpen implosion in the ninth inning — UCA had seven consecutive hitters reach base and scored five of its runs — the victory for Tewes would have looked a little cleaner. When he exited in the fifth inning, the Shockers held a 9-0 lead.
That may have put a damper on the win, but it didn’t put one on Tewes’ performance for WSU coach Todd Butler.
“He’s going to be pushing to be a weekend starter before it’s all said and done,” Butler said.
While it was Tewes looking to prove himself on the mound, WSU’s offense was also generated by players vying for playing time.
Freshman Wes Phillips registered his second start at shortstop and responded with a 3-for-5 performance that included two runs and three RBIs. All three of Phillips’ hits came with two outs.
“I can hold up my own, I think I definitely showed (the coaches) that,” Phillips said. “Now I have to show them that I can go under pressure and execute and keep hitting the ball like I should.”
Sophomore Daniel Kihle, making his second start in left field, collected three hits, including a solo home run in the third inning, to improve his season batting average to .500.
The home run came a pitch after Kihle fouled off a bunt attempt. The sophomore from Andale said he noticed UCA’s coach whistled at his pitcher, which he assumed was to try it again. And when an identical changeup was thrown, Kihle was ready.
“I thought I was out,” Kihle said. “I kind of threw my bat over. But I’ll take what I can get. I was just fortunate there.”
It was part of an early-game onslaught, as WSU scored three runs in the second, four in the third and two in the fourth.
Casey Gillaspie also finished with three hits and drove in two runs, while Tanner Dearman scored two runs and drove in a run.
As the new coaching staff carefully watches how players perform early in the season, players like Tewes, Phillips, and Kihle are under the microscope.
Every at-bat, every pitch is a precious commodity to those in search of more of them — and they know it.
“Every little detail right now is so important for me, important for all of us,” Phillips said. “It’s a battle every day for playing time. There’s definitely a war going on every day between all the middle infielders.”
E — Treece, Koeiman. DP — Central Arkansas. LOB — Central Arkansas 6, WSU 12. 2B — Deckard (1), White (1), Gillaspie (2), Kihle (2), Phillips 2 (2). 3B — Hoover (1). HR — Kihle (1). S — Bobbit. SB — Dearman 2 (5). CS — Green.
|Schmidt L,0-1||1 2/3||3||3||3||4||2||15.9|
|Tewes W,1-0||4 1/3||0||1||1||2||2||2.08|
WP — Schmidt, Markel, Echols 2. PB — Baker. HBP — Bayliff (by Schmidt), Deckard (by LaBrie). Umpires — home, Clint Wheeler; first, Todd Sigwig; third, Sean Bolte. T — 3:02. A — 2,373.