Those within the Wichita State baseball program are not delusional.
They know having Wichita State stitched across their uniforms is no longer good enough to win the Missouri Valley Conference. Conference games begin Friday at home against Illinois State.
“For the past 30 years we’ve been smashing everybody in the conference,” WSU senior Johnny Coy said. “Here lately, it hasn’t been that way. We’ve been at the top still, but we haven’t dominated the way (coach) Gene (Stephenson) or our team would have liked.”
While it may be ambitious to expect that type of domination after a 14-11 non-conference start, Wichita State knows how important winning the first weekend series of the Valley is to its future.
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After losing 6 of 7 on the road trip against Long Beach State and Hawaii, Wichita State rebounded with two wins over Air Force at home to kick off a stretch that features 10 games at Eck Stadium in 13 days.
Hopes of a turnaround were plentiful among the Shockers.
“The road trip was kind of a bust,” WSU starter Zach Beringer said. “We didn’t play very well, but to come back home and get two wins against Air Force is great. We just have to build off of this.”
Illinois State isn’t exactly a team on fire, having just lost a series to Eastern Illinois at home, so it presents the ideal opportunity for WSU to start the MVC season with a good performance.
But for that to happen, the bats are going to have to come around for the Shockers.
It looked as if they were coming around in Hawaii, when WSU combined for 34 hits in three games, but the temperature wasn’t the only thing that dropped when the team returned to Wichita.
In the last nine games, Wichita State is averaging 2.6 runs and 8.1 hits.
“If we’re going to have any success against Illinois State,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said, “we’re going to have to be a lot better offensively than we’ve been at any time the last two weeks. If we can’t do that, we’re going to be in a world of hurt.”