Wichita State softball coach Kristi Bredbenner breaks her non-conference schedule into two categories — teams they need to imitate and teams the Shockers need to beat.
WSU starts practice Wednesday morning in preparation for Bredbenner's first season. The Shockers, 20-37 last season, face four teams that played in the Women's College World Series.
"That kind of competition for us is great," she said. "We're going to see where we need to be. See their work ethic, their attitude on the field."
It's not all teams the caliber of Baylor, Arizona State (the NCAA champion), Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Bredbenner said she thinks the schedule, set up before her hiring last summer, offers plenty of chances for wins.
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"When you break it down, the schedule is not as challenging as it really looks," she said. "The rest of them, we've just got to compete and we've got to get better."
The Shockers impressed Bredbenner, who coached six seasons at Emporia State, with their desire to get better in the fall. She emphasized weights and conditioning and liked the response. By the end of the fall, she said she noticed balls traveling longer distances and players running faster.
"To me, the pleasant surprise was that everybody seemed to be excited," Bredbenner said. "It's really easy for a team coming off a 20-37 season to think they're not very good and not want to work hard. I'm pretty excited to see what we can do this next season."
The early spring practices will focus on fundamentals and conditioning. The focus narrows to game situations and the early opponents late this month. WSU opens the season on Feb. 10 against Iowa in the Baylor Tournament.
On the phone with the NCAA — Wichita State freshman pitcher Kyle Bouman received a generous Christmas gift. WSU's administration now needs to see if the NCAA approves.
Bouman was in danger of not returning to WSU for the spring semester because his family could not afford to pay a delinquent tuition bill at DeSmet Jesuit High in St. Louis.
Bouman confirmed the details of stories published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and declined to comment further.
According to the stories, four anonymous donors paid the bill of $6,500 so that DeSmet would release Bouman's final transcript.
"I think they were people who were simply moved by the Christmas spirit," Rev. Wally Sidney, DeSmet president, told the Post-Dispatch.
Bouman attended WSU in the fall and practiced with the team. WSU, according to the Post-Dispatch, discovered he had not filed his final transcript and told him he would not be allowed to enroll for the spring without that paperwork.
The Bouman family filed for bankruptcy in 2010, according to the Post-Dispatch.
Athletic director Eric Sexton said WSU is working with the NCAA to determine if Bouman's eligibility is affected. The donors are not associated with WSU or Bouman's baseball career, making Sexton optimistic that the NCAA will look favorably on the transaction.
Double trouble — Shocker forward Carl Hall is used to defenses swarming him when he gets the basketball close to the basket.
He faced double-teams in junior college. He is facing them at WSU. He is comfortable making a safe pass out of the double to avoid a turnover. He would like to make defenses pay more often for that tactic by finding teammates for open shots.
"I've got to make plays out of the double-team to put us in a position to score," Hall said.
Hall knows that center Garrett Stutz is often open on the other side of the lane. That is a difficult pass to make when his back is to the basket and two players are attacking.
"I need to face up more, use my face-up game a little more and I'd be able to make an easier pass to Stutz on the back-side," Hall said.
Honor for Dreifort — Former Shocker pitcher Darren Dreifort is one of 18 people who will be inducted into the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame.
Dreifort and the group will be inducted on Feb. 4 at Hillside Christian Church.
Dreifort, from Wichita, won the Golden Spikes and Bob Smith awards for the college player of the year in 1993. He pitched for the 1992 U.S. Olympic team and for nine seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Former Kansas coach Dave Bingham, umpire Bob Homolka and Negro League players such as Satchel Paige, Buck O'Neil and Bullet Rogan will also be inducted.
Worth noting — Men's tennis players David Cavalcanti and Matheus Pereira are No. 20 in the first 2012 Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings. Pereira is No. 66 in the singles rankings.... The Fast Fours volleyball program begins on Jan. 31 and runs on Tuesdays from 6-8 p.m. For information call 316-978-5549.