Wichita State baseball coach Gene Stephenson has coached hundreds of players — the media guide lists 308 lettermen before the 2009 season — in his 33 years.
For the first time, one of them is academically ineligible based on his grades at WSU. The Shockers will be without pitcher Brian Flynn, a sophomore from Owasso, Okla., for the 2010 season.
"It's extremely disappointing that Brian Flynn is not eligible academically," Stephenson said in a news release. "We are deeply saddened by this development, but ultimately it is up to each young man to take care of his academic responsibilities. Brian has failed to do that, and he must pay the price."
Flynn will remain at WSU. He can practice. He will not travel to games or dress for home games.
"He has made a renewed commitment to improve his academic standing and we will all do everything possible to help him in his effort to regain his eligibility for next year," Stephenson said.
Flynn, a 6-foot-8 lefty, went 2-5 with a 4.98 ERA as a freshman, used largely as WSU's midweek starter. His role in 2010 was undetermined. Pitching coach Brent Kemnitz said he considered using Flynn out of the bullpen this spring. The Shockers used Flynn in that role late last season with good results. He earned the win in relief in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship and pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings against Oklahoma in the NCAA regional.
"That totally changed the last 20-plus games of the season," Kemnitz said.
With Flynn out of the mix, the health of relievers Logan Hoch, Grant Muncrief and Tyler Fleming becomes more important. Hoch and Fleming missed all of 2009 with shoulder injuries. Muncrief missed most of the season and is trying to make a fast recovery from elbow surgery.
"If they're healthy... we won't feel a lot of pain," Kemnitz said. "If they're not, then you're going to feel the pain."
Kemnitz said Hoch, a lefty, and Muncrief threw at 100 percent before the Christmas break and essentially finished their rehab. Fleming, unable to throw this fall, had surgery to remove scar tissue after practices ended.
"I'm optimistic about Hoch and Muncrief," Kemnitz said. "I feel like there's a good chance they're going to be 100 percent. I know Fleming's optimistic, but I haven't seen (him throw)."
Kemnitz ticketed sophomore lefty Josh Smith for the role of fifth starter after the fall. Freshman T.J. McGreevy is another candidate to start. Smith compiled an 0-2 record with an 8.62 ERA as a freshman, starting one game. Kemnitz said he is better suited to start and his outings during the fall confirmed that notion.
"He seems much more comfortable there," Kemnitz said.
None of the coaches are trying to pretend losing Flynn is harmless. It remains to be seen how much of a blow it is to the pitching staff.
"There's other guys this may motivate," Kemnitz said. "It's obviously a devastating blow, but it's a bigger blow for Brian Flynn. Now he's got a lot of work to do to get back on track. To his credit, he's hanging in there."
Notes — WSU's softball team opened practice on Wednesday and had the first team workouts in the new indoor practice facility next to Eck Stadium. WSU opens the season on Feb. 12 in Shreveport, La.... Baseball pitcher Jordan Cooper was named to PingBaseball's All-America second team. Cooper went 8-6 with a 2.78 ERA as a freshman.