This isn't the first time that sophomore outfielder Garrett Bayliff has dealt with a major injury during his Wichita State baseball career. He had an injured hip before his freshman year, which limited him in the summer and fall before last season.
So this was the first time Bayliff had a full offseason, and he was showing the products of his preparation as he collected seven hits in the Shockers' first six games. Those six games are likely all Bayliff will get in 2011, as he suffered a fractured right fibula and dislocated ankle during a slide against North Dakota on Saturday.
Bayliff had successful surgery Tuesday and the prognosis gives him a likely chance at a full recovery.
"He really had to work hard to get back into playing condition, and it hurt him last year," WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. "I don't think he was near the player yet because he hadn't really fully recovered.
"He worked really hard on improving his swing and his approach at the plate and he made some great strides.... I was thinking that he was going to have a great year because he had prepared properly."
The Shockers learned the severity of Bayliff's injury during Saturday's game and finished the series 24 hours later.
"Bayliff's a big part of our team and he had played really well to that point," WSU sophomore Erik Harbutz said. "It started during that game — it was tough to watch him get carried off the field and continue to play."
WSU had to move on, though. Micah Green finished Saturday's game in left field, and on Sunday Harbutz moved from third base to left field with freshman Dayne Parker inserted into the lineup at third.
The Shockers are keeping their options open. Zach Stucky and Ryan Hege are other possibilities in the outfield, while Josh Halbert can fill in at third. Four games in and near Dallas, starting today against Texas-Arlington, could help WSU find permanence at those positions.
"We're going to experiment," Stephenson said. "We're going to try to find situations that don't hurt our defense and we're going to try for the best offense possible. We would not rule out much of anything at this point."
Besides Bayliff himself, Harbutz is likely the player most affected by Bayliff's injury. Last season, Harbutz competed with Nate Goro for innings at third base, which the two ultimately split. With Goro now out of the program, Harbutz was going to be the full-time third baseman.
Harbutz has never played the outfield, but his offense becomes more important with Bayliff out so he gets first crack at the spot. It's an adjustment, but continuing to play on the left side of the helps maintain Harbutz's comfort.
"There is a lot of similarities," Harbutz said. "The only thing that kind of got me was the first step and judging balls. I talked to (center fielder) Kevin Hall, he's a great defensive player and he's giving me some help and some pointers and stuff like that. It's all coming together."