Wichita State assistant coach Jim Thomas wrapped up Monday’s baseball practice by warning players not to strain a muscle shoveling snow.
That sums up WSU’s baseball season. The Shockers (1-3) are losing games rapidly to the weather. They won’t play Oral Roberts on Tuesday at Eck Stadium and are working on a new date. They added Arkansas-Little Rock on Wednesday, since it was supposed to play at Oklahoma State on Tuesday, and canceled that. This weekend’s series with Fordham will likely officially get the axe on Tuesday. Throw in last weekend’s cancellation of a four-game series with Delaware and WSU is down eight games.
“I feel like we’re back in fall ball, practicing every single day,” WSU outfielder Micah Green said. “We were ready to be playing every day, but that’s not happening.”
Coach Gene Stephenson is working on that. He spent much of Monday’s practice on the phone, trying to find a dry place to play this weekend. He expects to make a decision on Tuesday and the Shockers will likely head south and meet other schools fleeing winter.
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“It doesn’t look good here,” he said. “We have to go somewhere there’s no snow.”
The Shockers are doing what they can to stay sharp. At least they can scrimmage in favorable conditions in their indoor facility. WSU last played on Feb. 19, a 5-4 win at Oral Roberts.
“We’re letting our pitchers let loose a little and getting to see live pitching,” Green said. “We’re trying to take this as serious as we can, trying to keep up with the teams in warmer states. It’s kind of like starting over.”
The Shockers practiced often outdoors in late January and early February. Now they are back indoors.
“We’re just going to do the best job we can,” Stephenson said. “We must get games in this weekend. If we can’t do it here, we have to do it somewhere.”
Numbers surprise — WSU’s men’s basketball team appeared to be in great shape with the tiebreakers for the MVC Tournament. The first is head-to-head and the second is non-conference strength of schedule. Before Saturday’s games, first-place WSU ranked No. 66 and second-place Creighton ranked No. 109.
A lot changed by Sunday. Creighton, which played Saint Mary’s in a BracketBusters game Saturday, jumped to No. 47. WSU, which played Detroit, dropped to No. 73. There is not a large difference in the score — Creighton is at .5658, WSU at .5522. The difference is enough for Creighton to rise dramatically in the rankings.
Shockers coach Gregg Marshall got surprised twice. All along, he thought Creighton’s schedule looked stronger. Just when he warmed up to the idea the Shockers had an edge, the math changed.
“I didn’t understand how we were in front of them to begin with, but we were,” he said.
WSU, barring more change in the tiebreakers, will likely need to win its final two regular-season games to secure the top seed. It meets Evansville on Wednesday at Koch Arena and can clinch a share of the MVC title. It plays at Creighton on Saturday. The top seed earns a little more rest by playing the early games Friday and Saturday. Its road to Sunday’s title game will be easier if seeds hold and it plays the No. 4 seed in the semifinals instead of the No. 3 seed. Currently, the third seed is Northern Iowa, which has won six straight MVC games.
“It doesn’t matter,” Marshall said. “You’re going to have to play three good teams (in the tournament), and it may or may not be a tie.”
WSU received 35 points in the Associated Press top 25 poll, good for 29th. It received 12 votes in the USA Today coaches poll, tied with UNLV for No. 31.
Possible to play — Evansville guard Ned Cox injured his left foot during Saturday’s win over Wright State. Coach Marty Simmons labeled him day to day.
Cox, a senior, is playing with plantar fasciitis. He played nine minutes on Saturday before the injury. Simmons is optimistic that he will play against WSU.
“I think it’s more wait-and-see, but that’s certainly our hope,” Simmons said. “That may be a little bit of a stretch, but just talking to our trainers and doctors, that he’s made considerable improvement since he actually strained it on Saturday.”
Cox started all 29 games for the Aces and averages 11.4 points. He scored 10 points in Evansville’ 71-67 win over the Shockers in January.
Early honored — WSU forward Cleanthony Early earned MVC newcomer of the week honors after he averaged 18.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in wins over Indiana State and Detroit.
Early won the award for a sixth time, tying former Bradley forward Marcellus Sommerville (2003-04) for second on the MVC’s season list. Creighton’s Doug McDermott won it seven times as a freshman in 2010-11.
Evansville’s Colt Ryan was named player of the week.
Purdue rolls — WSU’s women’s tennis team lost to No. 20 Purdue 6-1 at Wichita Country Club.
Shocker freshman Julia Schiller won No. 3 singles 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 over Daniela Vidal. Lynda Xepoleas defeated Rebecca Pedrazzi 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 at No. 1 singles.
WSU (3-7) opens MVC play against Creighton on March 3 at Wichita Country Club.