Wichita State baseball fans had to enjoy watching Kris Gardner pitch last spring, when he earned freshman All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball magazine.
Gardner helped rescue WSU’s inconsistent starting rotation with his calm demeanor and accurate, economical pitching style. Now there is another Gardner on the way, and he appears to be a mirror image of his left-handed brother. Right-hander Austin Gardner, a senior from Coppell (Texas) High, gave WSU an oral commitment on Monday.
“He is in control of the game,” Dallas Tigers coach Jon Coyne said. “He is in control of his mechanics. He is in control of his emotions. He can a throw a pitch where he wants in any count.”
Yes, that sounds like a Gardner. Kris went 5-2 with a 2.66 ERA in 13 starts as a redshirt freshman. In 71 innings, he struck out 44 and walked 16. Scott Gardner, their father, pitched in the minor leagues after Shocker coach Gene Stephenson recruited him to Oklahoma.
“I would say we’re very similar with our mound presence,” Austin said. “We both learned from our dad. Watching my brother pitch was something that helped me. I could pick up the composure factor and the maturity factor.”
Austin Gardner (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) went 7-0 with a 0.79 ERA for the Tigers this summer. Coyne said he threw six complete games and rarely exhausted himself.
“It’s not like he was throwing 120 pitches and didn’t have any gas at the end,” Coyne said. “He was finishing games with 78 pitches. It was ridiculous.”
Coyne said Gardner throws in the mid 80s. He expects him to add velocity as he grows.
“Mechanically, he’s so good,” Coyne said. “Now you’ve just got to get him stronger.”
Gardner said he also considered Oral Roberts, Dartmouth, Brown and Wofford. WSU, because of his brother, was always a consideration, but he wanted to make the decision on his own. He came to games at Eck Stadium last spring. WSU pitching coach Brent Kemnitz watched him this summer and Gardner made a visit on Monday. He committed the same day.
“I’ve always wanted to play with my brother,” he said. “A bunch of his stories really helped. It was a combination of the good things I’ve heard from him about Coach Kemnitz and the guys and the baseball atmosphere.”
Gardner is the fourth pitcher from the class of 2013 to give WSU a non-binding commitment. Waverly (Neb.) pitcher Sam Tewes, Grayson County (Texas) College reliever Ray Ashford and Pine Creek (Colo.) lefty Reagan Biechler committed earlier this summer. Infielders Nathan Winfrey from Liberty (Mo.) High and Michael Burns of Columbine (Colo.) High also plan to sign when the signing period begins Nov. 14.
On Nov. 20, the Shockers play DePaul in Cancun. WSU will play Iowa or Western Kentucky on Nov. 21.