Ryan Jones, Erik Harbutz and Tyler Grimes powered out of slumps with home runs in Wichita State's 14-2 win against Central Arkansas on Tuesday night at Eck Stadium.
Harbutz got WSU started with a two-run home run in the first inning. Jones and Grimes hit back-to-back homers in the Shockers' five-run third inning that gave WSU an 8-0 lead.
After a combined 4 for 26 series against Florida Gulf Coast, Jones, Harbutz and Grimes teamed to go 6 for 11 with 11 RBIs as WSU won its third straight.
"It's always good to get out of a slump," Grimes said. "I'm sure (WSU coach Gene Stephenson) is happy about the consistency we have in our lineup. If our 1 through 4 hitters aren't hitting, we always have the back part of our lineup and that's what's helping us now."
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Josh Smith had his second effective start in a row. Smith (2-0) went six innings, struck out a career-high seven and allowed just two hits and one run.
"I got a lot more confidence right now," Smith said. "Working ahead in the counts, it's a lot more comfortable. My change-up was a big pitch for me today. I was able to spot that and keep the hitters off balance."
Even with the long innings — WSU scored in five of the first six innings he pitched — Smith never lost his momentum.
"I thought Josh Smith was outstanding," Stephenson said, "I thought he did a really good job especially with the delays between innings when we were scoring. That's always tough for a starting pitcher to come back and do a good job the next half inning."
WSU played 18 position players and four pitchers. Every WSU starter got at least one base hit and Will Baez, who has hit safely in all eight games he's played this year, had two hits.
Chance Sossamon, Justin Kemp (with stitches in his hand from an injury Saturday) and Cobey Guy shut down Central Arkansas in the last three innings.
"(Kemp) has a lot better movement, he kind of looks like something from a Frankenstein movie with the big scar on his hand, but he threw well today," Stephenson said.
Juco player commits — Des Moines Area Community College coach Dan Fitzgerald owns a good idea of the type of baseball player who performs well at Wichita State.
He is confident left fielder Scott Schebler is one of those players. Schebler, a freshman, orally committed to WSU on Monday and will sign a letter of intent during the signing period which begins April 14. He will have three seasons of eligibility at WSU beginning next season.
"He's right out of the Wichita State mold," Fitzgerald said. "He's a stud."
Schebler (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) is hitting .462 with a .769 slugging percentage in nine games for DMACC. He has two home runs, four doubles and a triple. Schebler bats lefty and throws right-handed.
Fitzgerald describes him as a hard worker who took a leadership role as a newcomer.
"He's got a great approach at the plate," Fitzgerald said. "He's a plus runner. He's got big-time aspirations of playing in the big leagues."
Schebler visited WSU recently and loved the stadium, indoor workout facility and the school. He is an engineering student who is leaving junior college after one year, in part, to keep pace academically. Most of all, WSU's coaches sold the move.
"You can't beat that coaching staff," Schebler said. "It was a pretty easy choice. They know how to develop players. That's one thing I really need to do is develop."
Schebler played football, basketball, soccer and baseball and ran track at Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Prairie High. He moved from shortstop to the outfield as a senior.
Developing his arm, defensive skills and bat speed are his top priorities. His profile for the 2009 Perfect Game pre-draft showcase lists him with a time of 6.82 seconds in the 60-yard dash. Fitzgerald said Schebler could play any of the three outfield positions.
"I was all right as a shortstop," Schebler said. "I saw myself as more of an outfielder."
Schebler also considered Maryland, Auburn, Bradley and Oregon State. He talked with WSU outfielder Travis Bennett, also from Cedar Rapids, about the decision.
"He had some really good insights on the coaching staff and how they work," Schebler said.
Fitzgerald's relationship with WSU coaches also helped. He came to DMACC as an assistant to former Shocker Travis Wyckoff. Through Wyckoff, Fitzgerald met the Shocker coaches. He also coached WSU volunteer assistant Brandon Hall during the summer in Alaska.
Contributing: The Eagle's Paul Suellentrop
Central Arkansas000 001 001 — 2 Wichita State305 311 01x — 14
E — Getchell, Harris. LOB — CA 4, WSU 13. 2B — Prevett (1), Springer (4), Bascue (1), Jones 2 (4), Hall (2). HR — Harbutz (2), Jones (2), Grimes (2). S — Prevett. SF — Springer. SB — Getchell (4), Hall 2 (8).
WP — Smith, Cross 2, Hardin, Brewer. HBP — Harbutz (by Brewer). Umpires — home, Miek Lentz; first, Randy Wetzel; third, Clint Wheeler. T — 3:01. A — 2,819.