Sunday’s baseball game in New Orleans appeared to reach a turning point when Tulane’s first batter reached base on an error and stole second. After losses on Friday and Saturday, Wichita State didn’t need to fall in a first-inning hole.
That is where seniors are supposed to help and shortstop Dayne Parker did just that. He noticed Tulane’s Richard Carthon taking liberties with his lead and not hustling back. He called for a pickoff play, thinking along with coaches, to catch Carthon for the out and send freshman pitcher Sam Tewes sailing toward a 10-3 victory.
In a season full of inconsistent lineups and inconsistent play, coach Todd Butler is grateful to count on Parker. He moved Parker from second to shortstop over the weekend to take full advantage of his acumen. Recognizing the ripeness of the Carthon situation is an example of what Butler wants from his defensive leader.
“That’s what he does,” Butler said. “And we haven’t had that from that position. He’s a baseball player. He’s thinking with the game.”
WSU (22-21) continues a busy week against Kansas (26-20) on Tuesday before playing No. 18 Oklahoma State on Wednesday, both at Eck Stadium. The Shockers snapped a three-game losing streak on Sunday at Tulane.
Parker, from Roff, Okla., is hitting a career-best .298 after ending a career-best 11-game hitting streak on Sunday. He prefers shortstop, which is where he played most of his life. A detached labrum, suffered last spring, kept him from throwing in the fall and he opted for rehab over surgery so he could play this spring. Butler handled him carefully, not wanting to tax the shoulder with long throws from shortstop.
“I didn’t want to burn him out at shortstop early and not have him late,” Butler said. “Now we’re at the end.”
Parker made all the throws over the weekend and the arm gave him no problems.
“I feel 100 percent,” he said. “It hasn’t felt bad at all. I’m glad to be back over there.”
WSU's infield could change again when senior Erik Harbutz returns from a sprained medial collateral ligament and a bone bruise in his right knee. Butler said Harbutz might be able to DH this weekend against Bradley, but his return to the field is farther away.
Harbutz, who started seven games at shortstop and one at third before the injury, hasn't played since March 28. He hit .286 in 13 games before an outfield collision with teammate Tanner Kirk sidelined him.
WSU’s defense will need all its smarts again Tuesday to help a freshman. Lefty Cody Tyler will get his first start of the season against the Jayhawks. Two mid-week games put Butler in a position where is willing to try Tyler, who has made nine relief appearances, none longer than an inning. Kris Gardner, his top mid-week starter, threw in relief on Saturday and will get another day off before starting Wednesday.
“I’m very excited to see if Cody Tyler can elevate his game as a freshman and see if he can pitch against Kansas and have command and compete,” Butler said. “It’s going to be a good challenge for him.”