Wichita State pitcher Charlie Lowell faced batters for the first time since April 4 on Tuesday.
He threw 35 pitches and, regardless of the results, they all felt good. He expects to pitch out of the bullpen this weekend against Missouri State.
"It's pretty exciting, to finally get back on the mound and throw to hitters," he said. "It's been the longest five weeks ever."
Lowell, a sophomore lefty, has been out with forearm tightness since that day at Evansville. An MRI showed no damage, and he slowly worked his way from light throwing to bullpens to Tuesday's scrimmage at Eck Stadium.
"I thought he looked good," WSU pitching coach Brent Kemnitz said. "He threw pain-free. His delivery looked fine."
Lowell (2-2, 4.56 ERA) will need time to get his arm and shoulder in shape.
"It was a little tight here and there, but it felt pretty normal," he said. "I thought I had pretty good stuff. I was spotting up all right, a little rust."
The plan is to use him in relief over the final seven games of the regular season. If things go well, he may start during the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament that begins May 25 at Eck Stadium. Before the injury, he made six starts and threw 25 2/3 innings. A week before the injury, Lowell threw seven shutout innings against Bradley, striking out six and not walking a batter.
"He's not going to go out and give you four or five innings right out of the chute," Kemnitz said. "The bullpen is a good starting place."
Lowell will need time to get his mind ready to pitch. He struggled during his second inning on Tuesday.
"I think he got mentally tired before he got physically tired," Kemnitz said. "It was just a matter of getting back in a pitching mindset."
Regardless of whether he starts or relieves, Lowell's return is helpful. Even as the season draws to a close, Kemnitz is looking for bullpen pitchers to get hitters out. The MVC Tournament, which stretches over five days, could force a team to go deep into its staff, especially in the losers bracket.
"For him to go out and give us some quality innings, whether it's two or three or six, is a plus," Kemnitz said. "It gives you a left-hander that's more experienced and has quality stuff."
After two low-stress outings, senior Clint McKeever is also getting a look as an option in the bullpen. He threw a scoreless, hitless inning in Saturday's 8-3 win over Creighton, getting a strikeout and two routine grounders. On Tuesday, he struck out two and didn't allow a hit in 1 1/3 innings against Oral Roberts.
"He has a great competitive nature," WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. "He believes in himself, and he believes he can go do anything."
McKeever has pitched 19 1/3 innings in four seasons at WSU. In 2009, his job at first base took priority. A hamstring injury forced him to the bench this season and Johnny Coy took over. McKeever, who DH'ed Saturday, could contribute in both roles.
"I've taken about five months off from throwing complete, when we decided I wasn't needed in the bullpen," McKeever said. "I've got a fresh arm and a fresh brain."
As a sophomore, McKeever compiled a 1.86 ERA in 9 2/3 innings. He pitched effectively in the 2008 super regional. Recapturing that form would help the bullpen immensely.
"I've got to be able to fill any role they need me to," McKeever said. "I've been getting in bullpens every two or three days and getting my arm back in shape, and at the same time getting my mental game back where it needs to be to be on the mound."
Golf headed to Texas — WSU's men's golf team will compete in the NCAA regional at The Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas, hosted by Texas A&M.
The Shockers, ranked No. 69 nationally by Golfweek, are the No. 12 seed. The top five teams from six regionals and the low individual not on a top-five team, advance to the NCAA Championship on June 1-6 in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Texas A&M is the top seed.
Track picked as favorites — WSU's men's track team is the unanimous favorite in the MVC outdoor meet that begins Friday.
The Shockers received all six first-place votes from conference coaches. Southern Illinois is picked second.
The WSU women are picked second behind defending champion Southern Illinois. WSU received three first-place votes, three fewer than SIU.
Tyler Simmons was named MVC's track athlete of the week after he ran a time of 10.54 in the 100-meter dash last weekend. He is tied with teammate Chris Dickman for the fastest time in the MVC. Bryan Tapia earned the weekly honor for field competition with a hammer throw of 183 feet, 2 inches and discus throw of 173-3.