One of the quiet cruelties of the Wichita State baseball season plays out every time left-hander Brian Flynn throws in practice.
He's good. He's just what Wichita State needs.
His teammates know. They let him hear it.
"I've been doing well in intrasquads, and the guys are wearing me out," Flynn said. "It's all in good fun. I'll take it because it's my fault."
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Flynn is sitting out this season because he's academically ineligible. He practices with the team and watches games from the stands. The plan was to use Flynn out of the bullpen, a spot that troubles the Shockers. WSU is probably five or six wins from being a solid NCAA regional at-large team. Could Flynn's presence have made a difference?
That is the past. What matters now is Flynn's future at WSU. He said he is on track to be eligible in 2011, a stand confirmed by coach Gene Stephenson.
"I think he, academically, has begun to realize that it is important," Stephenson said. "I think he has a done a good job this semester and I hope it will continue to grow on him."
Flynn said he completed 18 hours in the spring and will take six this summer. He plans to pitch for a local team, although assistant coach Jim Thomas won't tell him which one until grades are final.
If he can handle 12 hours in the fall, he should be eligible.
"I learned my lesson from what I'm having to sit out for," he said. "I'm changing habits, bad habits that I had. Not studying enough and just being lazy about it."
Flynn, a 6-foot-8 sophomore from Owasso, Okla., lives with pitcher Jordan Cooper in WSU's version of the Odd Couple. Cooper is a right-hander, six inches shorter than Flynn, is a regular on the honor roll and wants to go to law school.
"He's going to class, which is a first step," Cooper said. "It's been tough on him, but I think it's been good for him. He knows he can't mess up again or he's going to be gone."
Flynn went 2-5 with a 4.98 ERA last season, numbers that only hint at his potential. He struck out 59 in 56 innings and dominated at times. In last season's regional, he struck out two and didn't allow a hit in 2 1/3 innings against Oklahoma.
Flynn knows he wasted a year of his baseball life. He maintains it won't happen again.
"I realize I can't try to scrape by in classes and barely try to be eligible," he said. "It's a lot easier now when you wake up and know you're on top of everything. It's going to be a lot of fun next year to play and be on top of that stuff."
Good neighbors _ Wichita State and Oral Roberts are baseball brethren, schools serious about the sport weighed down by conference limitations.
They need each other. Last week showed how much.
Oral Roberts coach Rob Walton brought his team to Eck Stadium in spite of the fact it is scheduled for more games than allowed by the NCAA and will likely serve a two-game penalty in 2011.
ORU, which doesn't play Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Arkansas this season, needs WSU. WSU, with OU and Arkansas no longer willing to play, also benefits. It's easy travel to play a good opponent, and the schools took advantage for a four-game series this season.
"Being a head coach, you like to play good people," Walton said. "Win, lose or draw you'll be better for it. Getting beat by people you respect, it just doesn't hurt as bad because you know they're doing it right."
Walton also values his relationship with Stephenson, whom he called a mentor. He calls him to talk about his team and how to handle personalities. He calls to get perspective on recruiting and the draft and how it has changed.
"When I took the job seven years ago, one of the first phone calls I got was from Gene, congratulating me on the job and offering to help me out," Walton said. "He's one of the guys responsible for making college baseball the game it is today. Cliff Gustafson. Gary Ward. Ron Fraser. Gene Stephenson. Those guys put college baseball on the map."
Worth noting _ Former Shocker basketball player Kenny Manigault is considering The Citadel, South Carolina-Upstate and several junior colleges, according to the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier.... The NCAA women's tennis individual championships begin Wednesday in Athens, Ga. WSU's Luftiana Budiharto is one of 64 singles players. Stephanie Dalmacio and Delia Damaschin are part of the 32-team doubles field that begins play on Thursday. Opponents are determined Tuesday.... Thirteen Shockers are qualified for the NCAA track and field regional in Austin this week. More could be added today when additional qualifiers are posted.... Drake's men's basketball team picked up immediate inside help with the addition of 6-foot-8 forward Kraidon Woods, a junior who played in 2008 and 2009 at Arizona State. He is eligible immediately after transferring from Binghamton, where he redshirted last season.