Wichita State Shockers

WSU's Hall, Grimes switch it up

Wichita State center fielder Kevin Hall smacked a ball into the — well, into the netting protecting the ceiling — and took off for a triple.

Yes, it's a little tricky to judge results when the Shockers scrimmage indoors. In Hall's mind, he hit it well enough to deserve to stretch his legs around the bases. Nobody argued.

"If you hit it close to the back wall on a line, normally they will give you an extra-base hit," Hall said. "Normally, it's a double, but I'm always trying to push it."

The significant point is he batted from the left side and made good contact. When the Shockers open the season today against North Florida in the South Alabama Classic, Hall and shortstop Tyler Grimes will add switch-hitting to their repertoire.

"I think they believe that it's going to be a big plus for them," WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. "I'll expect very good years from both of them."

The players are just as optimistic about swinging lefty for the first time as college players. Grimes, a sophomore, hit .294 with five home runs in 2009. Hall, a sophomore, started 12 games before a stress fracture in his back ended his season. He hit .256 after hitting .320 in 37 games as a freshman.

Grimes tried switch-hitting before high school. He picked it back up with help from assistant coach Jim Thomas, who also learned in college.

"It's just a matter of reps and getting your timing down and getting in a stance that's going to make me comfortable," Grimes said.

Hall started thinking about it while sidelined last spring, as a way to take advantage of his speed and to better handle breaking pitches from right-handed pitchers. He experimented with the Derby Twins last summer and got serious in the fall.

"Every day in batting practice, which was embarrassing for awhile," he said.

Stephenson thinks the move is helping in unexpected ways. Grimes, in Stephenson's mind, owns a smoother swing from the left side than the right.

"It's a better swing through the zone," Stephenson said. "It's quick. It's strong. It's balanced."

Learning to hit lefty forced Grimes to slow down and is helping both swings.

"I take my time on the left side," he said. "Whenever I get in on the right side, I get in a habit of pulling things and not using all sides of the field. Now, from the left side, I don't think about my right-handed swing and it just comes natural and I react to the pitch."

Hall, in his third season at WSU, feels more confident from both sides of the plate. He learned to be patient and let the ball come to him, allowing him to use more of the field.

"I'm so much better at that now," he said. "Now I'm hitting it into the right-center gap, when it seems like as a freshman I was dead-pull. I let the ball get deeper into my stance, and that way I have more power and you can see the ball longer."