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Wichita State welcomes Simpson into lineup after wait

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, March 27, 2014, at 7:33 p.m.

Cal State Fullerton at Wichita State

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Eck Stadium

Records: CSF 13-8, WSU 14-9

Radio: KNSS, 1330-AM

There’s value in being in the lineup every day, and value in not having to worry about it too much.

Chase Simpson has learned to embrace both realities after a hectic first four years of his college baseball career. The Wichita State third baseman has become a fixture in the Shockers’ lineup after sitting out last season and playing sparingly as a walk-on at Oklahoma in 2012.

Simpson, having played for four coaches in four seasons, ’s teams is relishing the stability provided by first-year WSU coach Todd Butler, but he also found comfort in learning how to make a lot of good first impressions.

“You do get used to it,” said Simpson, a junior batting .263. “When I say roll with the punches, you become well-rounded and you learn different philosophies, and you kind of put it all together to become the best player you can be.”

After one season and 52 at-bats for OU, Simpson decided to transfer after the coach who recruited him, former assistant Tim Tadlock, left for Texas Tech before the 2012 season. WSU filed a waiver to make him eligible last season without the mandatory one-year waiting period, but it was denied.

Then WSU coach Gene Stephenson was fired, leaving Simpson with more uncertainty.

This time, though, there was no thought of leaving. Simpson became comfortable at WSU and developed a bond with pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Brent Kemnitz, the lone holdover from Stephenson’s staff.

“I was staying either way,” Simpson said. “I respect coach Kemnitz, and I wanted to play for him. I was excited, before we knew who we had (as coach), about the team that we had. I wasn’t going anywhere.”

Simpson has been installed in the middle of WSU’s order, regularly hitting fourth or fifth behind on-base machines such as Casey Gillaspie and Garrett Bayliff.

That cushy spot in the lineup has provided Simpson with his share of RBI opportunities, a role he has settled into nicely. Simpson is second on the team in RBIs with 19 and is also second in doubles, triples and homers. He hasn’t grounded into a double play despite having men on base in most of his at-bats.

“It’s actually something I’ve learned a little bit,” Simpson said about clutch hitting. “Growing up I was always a (No. 2 hitter), so I was more the guy on the bases getting scored. I don’t think anything really changes — I think that’s when you get in trouble, is when you try to make (an RBI) situation bigger than what it really is.

“If you go in with the same mindset and the same approach, and just the same focus, I think you’ll be more successful than if you try to look at that situation different from any other.”

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