Missouri State defeated Arkansas on Monday in a baseball regional and that can either bring comfort or frustration to long-suffering Wichita State fans.
Probably mostly frustration, because the Bears are going places the Shockers used to go.
This is Missouri State’s second trip to a super regional in the past three seasons.
Wichita State, for you youngsters, last won an NCAA regional game in 2008.
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There is at least a modicum of something positive to be mined from Missouri State’s success: Patience with a coach can pay off. That, understandably, is not what most Shocker fans want to hear. It is, however, the state of affairs.
Most are out of patience with coach Todd Butler after a third consecutive losing season (after previously losing patience with coach Gene Stephenson). Butler will return for a fifth season, athletic director Darron Boatright said last month. With that decision made (and a buyout of more than $900,000 for the remainder of Butler’s contract looming over the decision), Wichita State’s only play is to make the best of 2018 at Eck Stadium.
Missouri State fans, at least some of them, lost patience with coach Keith Guttin not too long ago.
The Bears went to the College World Series in 2003 and moved into gorgeous Hammons Field in 2004. Those moves were supposed to kick off a golden era of Bears baseball.
Instead, Missouri State didn’t return to NCAA play until 2012. It suffered through losing seasons in 2005 (26-29), 2007 (23-34), 2010 (21-34) and 2014 (26-31). It won one MVC title from 2004-14 and finished second three times.
That’s an 11-season span in which the Bears fell out of national relevance and ceded control of the Valley to WSU and Creighton. Schools such as Evansville, Indiana State and Illinois State became equals.
Missouri State stuck with Guttin, who played there and started coaching the Bears in 1983, and received its rewards in the past three seasons. The Bears hosted and won a regional in 2015. In 2016, they went 38-21, although slumping to 7-13 in MVC play. This season, they won the MVC again and are headed to TCU this week for the super regional.
There is, of course, one important difference between the scenarios. Guttin built the program as an NCAA Division I member and put seven NCAA trips into his pocket, including the 2003 run to Omaha, to act as a cushion before the slide. Butler has no such success on his resume as a head coach.
Patience paid off for Missouri State. In a year, we will know if a similar approach pumps any life back into Wichita State.
▪ The American Athletic Conference will not put a representative in a super regional. Houston lost at home to Texas A&M in the regional final. Central Florida went 0-2 in Tallahassee, eliminated by host Florida State. South Florida went 1-2, losing to Florida and Bethune-Cookman in Gainesville.