Scores: Kansas State 20, WSU 11; Arkansas 3, WSU 1
Record: WSU 39-28
No Shocker had played in a regional and that turned out to be a bigger factor than I anticipated. Everybody admitted nerves contributed to the nightmare first inning on Friday against Kansas State. The Wildcats are an excellent hitting team and they took advantage when Cale Elam and Albert Minnis gave them an opening. That first inning ended WSU’s regional hopes. Down 9-2, it had no chance of outscoring Kansas State. It’s hope was to win a low-scoring game with Elam and Minnis at their best. “I was concerned (Friday) that we would be a little nervous,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. “Until you’ve been there, you don’t really know. None of these guys had ever been there before.” For years – even years the Shockers didn’t go to Omaha – they walked into regional thinking they had a chance to win. That attitude will take some rebuilding.In a 0-2 regional, good news is hard to find. I put A.J. Ladwig’s start against Arkansas at the top. He endured an inconsistent sophomore season until mid-May. After a disaster at Missouri State, he recovered nicely to pitch well in four starts, highlighted by a complete-game win over Creighton. In those four starts, he showed an improved ability to get out of trouble and finish off batters. He struck out a career-high eight against Creighton. On Saturday, he struck out five against Arkansas, relying on a changeup to lock up hitters. At a minimum, he will be a solid piece of the rotation next season. If he can take another step forward as a junior, even better. I’m expecting WSU to return its rotation next season and it will be solid. However, it lacks a dominating Friday guy on the lines of an Aaron Shafer or Jordan Cooper. WSU’s lineup will return almost intact next season. Defensively, that is a big positive. The Shockers set the program fielding record (.977) for a second consecutive season. Offensively, several players need to improve for WSU to regain the MVC title and become a regional threat. While Johnny Coy didn’t have the season expected, his departure is a minus for the offense.If the Shockers can surround Casey Gillaspie with some threats, the offense has a chance. Gillaspie hit 11 home runs and walked 62 times, the 18th highest total in program history. Since 2000, only one Shocker walked 59 or more times – Drew Moffitt in 2002 and 2004.Any deeper discussion of next season is meaningless until we know who coaches the Shockers in 2014.