During Wichita State's 12-0 win over Niagara on Sunday, Tyler Grimes drew a first-inning walk and so flustered pitcher Cody Kasper that Kasper attempted five pickoff throws and didn't come near the strike zone in his first three pitches to the next batter, Preston Springer.
Grimes has the ability to be the one at the plate reaping the benefits of the scrappy baserunner, but he's more than happy to play the role of a top of the order-type hitter. After paying so much attention to Grimes, Kasper grooved a full-count fastball to Springer, who doubled to the gap to score Grimes easily.
"I want my teammates to get all the stats they can get," Grimes said. "I try to be real aggressive on the basepaths no matter what. If we're up 10-, 11-, 12-nothing, I'm going to take that extra bag no matter what.... I want to be aggressive and I want to set a tone for our team."
Grimes, the Shockers' junior shortstop, batted .249 last season, but he is suited for his role as WSU's No. 2 hitter because he takes a lot of pitches and draws a lot of walks — his 36 free passes led the Shockers in 2010.
He spent time batting leadoff last season, but junior center fielder Kevin Hall has re-assumed that role after missing time with injury and failing to produce while healthy.
Grimes, a four-time All-City League player at North, is a home-run threat but just as valuable batting second, where he can set the table for Springer, Johnny Coy and Chris O'Brien. Hitting behind them would increase Grimes' RBI opportunities but would risk burying him among a lower half of the order lacking in experience.
"Kevin's got good speed and he's a good leadoff hitter and he's going to be stealing bags," Grimes said. "Whenever he gets on second base, all I've got to do is basically put it on the right side of the field and get him over to third. I feel real confident about that. Putting the ball in play is what I can do best, so I feel real confident in the two-hole."
His power-hitting ability means Grimes probably won't often be called upon to sacrifice bunt, but he has changed his approach beyond altering his batting stance, an ongoing process with Grimes that he says has finally ended with his latest stance.
Coach Gene Stephenson has encouraged Grimes to hit the ball up the middle and to the opposite field, and when Grimes swings early in the count that's a viable plan. But since Grimes takes so many pitches and gets ahead in the count, he can sit on a fastball and pull it to left field, where most of his five hits in the Niagara series went.
"My approach is up the middle and right side," Grimes said. "But if I get around a ball and good things happen, it happens."
WSU has a potentially dangerous middle of the order, but with new bat specifications taking some power out of the game and the Shockers' multiple speedsters, they could use a more frequent small-ball approach, which suits Grimes' game perfectly. Then again, as a five-tool player who hasn't quite reached his potential with WSU, any style matches up with Grimes.
"He's sticking with what he's good at instead of trying to do what people think that he should be," O'Brien said. "He does what he's good at and that's what makes him a lot better."
Lowell honored — WSU pitcher Charley Lowell was named Missouri Valley pitcher of the week after five scoreless innings in Saturday's win over Niagara. Lowell allowed one hit and struck out seven.