Nobody around the Wichita State baseball program enjoys talking about last season.
But it's there, and the Shockers want to use those lessons for positive effect in 2010. WSU went 30-27 in 2009, burdened by an inexperienced roster and offensive weakness.
"I wouldn't forget it, because you always have to have something to build off of," sophomore catcher Chris O'Brien said. "You can't act like it never happened."
The Shockers open the season Feb. 23 at Kansas. Almost two weeks into practice, they like the way the team is progressing. The new indoor practice facility helps in many ways, including one big intangible.
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"It's made for a lot better camaraderie, a lot better team atmosphere," coach Gene Stephenson said.
The Shockers are together more and working more. Instead of dividing into small groups to hit in batting cages, the team practices even in bad weather.
"We've got a lot more time as a team in and lot more regular routine than we normally would," senior Clint McKeever said.
Add in another new factor: With returners more experienced and the addition of talented newcomers, playing time is not guaranteed. Last season, the Shockers ran low on numbers and talent, and Stephenson didn't have many options when making the lineup.
The mood is different this spring. Left field, catcher, third base and designated hitter are the prime spots open. There's more depth at other positions.
"No one knows the starting lineup," O'Brien said. "It's good, fun competition that everyone is enjoying. There is so much competition that everyone seems to be more ready, ready to get it going and earn their spot."
Get it down — The Shockers notoriously frustrate fans with their bunting skills.
The indoor facility might help.
On the indoor turf, the batters can see the results of their practice. In a batting cage, it's more difficult to gauge the placement. The turf indoors is the same as the stuff on the Eck Stadium infield.
"I know the fact is we bunt a lot more than we would upstairs (in the cages) because we have a lot more room," O'Brien said. "You get the feel of the way ground balls bounce and you get comfortable."
Stephenson isn't a big fan of the sacrifice bunt. The Shockers know they need to be able to execute when called upon.
"The coaches are putting a bigger emphasis on that this year," McKeever said. "We're bunting off live pitchers, off machines, several different stations every day. Hopefully, that's going to lead to some big improvements."
Tough travels _ The WSU women's basketball team will try to end a three-game road losing streak at 1:05 p.m., today at Indiana State.
The Shockers (13-10, 5-7 MVC) defeated the Sycamores (11-11, 2-9) 65-61 in Koch Arena on Jan. 14. WSU held the Sycamores without a field goal in the final 15 minutes.
Indiana State lost to Missouri State 69-58 on Friday, its first game without coach Jim Wiedie, suspended for the season. Assistant coaches Clint Weddle, Cammie Campbell and Melanie Boeglin are in charge.
The Sycamores have lost four straight games.
Worth noting — WSU's men's basketball team ranked No. 22 nationally in free throw percentage at 74.2 percent before Saturday's games. In MVC games, WSU is shooting 71 percent....Coach Gregg Marshall and guard Clevin Hannah will speak at a Koch Arena luncheon on Feb 22. Cost is $20.