Long Beach State’s record is 6-13, but Wichita State baseball coach Gene Stephenson sees something different heading into the teams’ three-game series beginning Friday at Eck Stadium.
“They’ve played all the great teams,” he said Thursday. “They play one of the top three in strength of schedule out of 300-plus teams.”
The Long Beach schedule includes California, UCLA, USC, Cal State Fullerton, Pepperdine and Arizona State. Having faced powerhouses in the West, facing Wichita State isn’t going to faze them, Stephenson said.
“They’ve played against the best pitching,” he said. “They face the best of the best every weekend. They’re not going to be overly impressed by Wichita State.”
Long Beach State’s bats haven’t produced much in the clutch. The 49ers have been held to two or fewer runs in 12 of 19 games and have scored four or more three times.
One thing Long Beach has is pitching. Tonight’s starter, right-hander Shawn Stuart, has a 2.76 ERA. The starters Saturday and Sunday, Matt Anderson and Ryan Strufing, are at 2.67 and 3.04.
WSU (13-10), winners of three straight, will counter with lefty Josh Smith tonight, followed by Albert Minnis and Mitch Mormann.
Injuries continue to plague the Shockers. Among those out are infielders Erik Harbutz (arm soreness) and Tyler Baker (hamstring). Second baseman Tyler Coughenour reinjured a shoulder Tuesday against Alcorn State and left the game, but Stephenson said there’s a chance he’ll play tonight.
“The most important thing is the defense needs to be solid,” Stephenson said. “Our infield is very thin.”
All of which makes the contributions Tuesday of Cowley College transfer Aaron Rea even more important. Rea went 2 for 2 with 2 RBIs against Alcorn State.
Wednesday’s rainout against Alcorn State has been rescheduled for May 9 at 6:30 p.m. in Eck Stadium. The Braves, from Lorman, Miss., play a three-game series at Oklahoma State beginning May 11.