Wichita State Shockers

Grimes sacrificing body in pursuit of Blake's mark

EVANSVILLE, Ind. —Tyler Grimes wants to pass Casey Blake in the record books, even if the pursuit leaves a bruise or two.

"I was in the elevator with (coach Gene Stephenson on a recent trip) and he was talking about how I was struggling," Grimes said. "I said 'Right now I'm struggling, but I've got something to look forward to. I'm going to try to get Casey Blake's hit record.'"

That's "hit" as in hit by pitch. Grimes, a sophomore shortstop, is on his way to becoming Wichita State baseball's king of pain, prince of plunk and boss of the bruise. He owns 22 for his career and 13 for the season.

Blake, currently playing third base for the Los Angeles Dodgers, holds WSU's career record with 35 from 1993-96. The record for a season is 15, held by Matt Patrick (1997) and Noah Krol (2006). Grimes is gaining on them quickly.

"I don't move," he said.

Even if he ends up with a mark or two on his shoulder, hip or back.

"It kind of stings, but it's going to go away eventually," he said.

Grimes, plunked three times in Wednesday's game against Tabor, prefers earning his bases with base hits. He hit .294 as a freshman. His sophomore season, which started with a now-discarded attempt at switch-hitting, is off to a slow start. He was stuck at .231 entering the weekend series at Evansville.

"I'm struggling at the plate, and I'm trying to do what's best for our team," he said. "Getting hit, or getting anything going, is what it's all about right now."

Grimes said he got hit often at North High. He's surprised college pitchers are so often inaccurate. He doesn't give them much room for error, especially with two strikes. That's when he moves his front leg and shoulder tight against home plate.

"When I get two strikes, I get a closed stance and I'm right on the line — as far as I can go," he said. "If the pitch is going to be there, I'm going to swing. If it's not there, I'm just battling and doing everything I can to get something going."

Moving up — North Platte (Neb.) Community College guard Joe Ragland went to Hutchinson unsure of his college destination. A few days later, he knew he wanted to be a Shocker and gave WSU an oral commitment after visiting.

That's not how Ragland planned things. He didn't go to the NJCAA Tournament to showcase his game to Division I coaches.

"It was going to go in there and win," he said. "I wanted to play good that week, not as a selfish player, but to do good as a team."

North Platte went 1-2 in Hutch, losing its opener 71-62 to Eastern Utah, defeating Butler Community College 80-70 and losing to Southeastern Illinois 64-61. Ragland averaged 18.7 points in Hutch, handing out eight assists with 14 turnovers.

WSU coaches approached Ragland after a game. The Sweet 16 run from 2006 gave them immediate credibility. His mother said he was ecstatic when he called to tell her of WSU's interest. Kimberly Ragland immediately went to the Internet.

"I said 'Slow down and research it,' " she said. "I went to the Internet and looked at their record, their coaches, their stats and who's leaving."

Then she talked to assistant coach Chris Jans and head coach Gregg Marshall.

"My question was, 'Why do you need Joe,' " she said. "You're covered with a lot of guards. They assured me he was needed as a point guard with size, strength and experience. They wanted a guard like Joe."

Ragland (6-feet, 180 pounds) will have two seasons of eligibility at WSU. The signing period begins April 14 and WSU coaches cannot comment on him until he signs.

Ragland, from West Springfield, Mass., averaged 18.4 points and made 56 percent of his shots, 45.8 percent of his three-pointers and 75.4 percent of his free throws. He said he also considered schools such as Utah, George Mason, Montana, Montana State, Lamar and Creighton. He did not visit any other schools.

Valley in Indy — The Missouri Valley Conference basketball season wrapped up last week.

* Missouri State defeated Pacific 78-65 on Tuesday to win the CollegeInsider.com Tournament at JQH Arena in front of 6,025 fans. Center Will Creekmore was named tournament MVP.

* Thursday in Indianapolis, Bradley's Chris Roberts finished second in the Slam Dunk Championship. Vermont's Marqus Blakely won.

* Also Thursday as part of the Final Four festitivities, Northern Iowa guard Ali Farokhmanesh finished in a tie for sixth in the 3-Point Championship. Teammate Adam Koch played 15 minutes and grabbed five rebounds in the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-Star Game on Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Koch played for the team coached by former Indiana State coach Bill Hodges.