Most athletes dread taking a year off. The time away from competition is a killer.
Wichita State pitcher Mitch Mormann wanted the break. He thinks he is making the most of his time learning from pitching coach Brent Kemnitz.
"I needed to take a year and work with Brent," Mormann said. "That was the whole reason I chose Wichita State."
Mormann, a senior right-hander, transferred from Louisiana State. He spent one ineffective season at LSU, plagued by walks and declining confidence. He struck out 18 and walked 16, compiling a 5.97 ERA in 19 relief appearances.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"I'm getting to be a strike thrower again," he said. "Probably 75 percent of it was mental."
Kemnitz thinks Mormann (6-foot-6, 255 pounds) is now prepared to use his powerful arm and keep pitches in the strike zone. Mormann changed the grip on his slider. He is working on his changeup.
"He has a delivery now that he is able to repeat and he's comfortable with," Kemnitz said. "He's always had great stuff. It's a matter of him getting relaxing and regaining confidence."
Mormann, from Manchester, Iowa, spent two seasons at Des Moines Area Community College. Former Shocker Travis Wyckoff recruited him to that school. Wyckoff, now out of coaching, watched Mormann pitch this fall at WSU. Mormann, Wyckoff said, looked like his old self.
"He said 'That's it,' " Kemnitz said. "That confirmed in my mind he was doing the same things he was doing when he was throwing well."
While bullpen sessions are all Mormann has to go on, he thinks they are revealing.
"You know if you're throwing a good pitch or not," he said. "When I get done with my bullpens, I sit there and think to myself 'Man, that stuff was good.' That's just building confidence."
Adding off-speed pitches helps build that good feeling. In junior college, Mormann could overpower hitters. At WSU, he will need to mix in more variety. Kemnitz suggested changing his grip on sliders, similar to the one that Tim Kelley uses.
"I moved the thumb over on the seam, and I'm throwing it like fastball," Mormann said. "Letting the grip work has helped out a lot. I was throwing my old one in bullpens and it was loopy and I couldn't control it that well."
Like Kelley, Mormann will spend his summer with the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters. Kemnitz wants him to pitch a lot of innings in preparation for next season. WSU could lose its top three starting pitchers, depending on how the June draft plays out.
Mormann is a candidate to fill one of those spots.
"There's no reason he shouldn't be a huge factor next year," Kemnitz said.l
Dallas Baptist looks enticing — Proponents — such as WSU coach Gene Stephenson — of adding Dallas Baptist as an affiliate member for Missouri Valley Conference baseball look smart.
The Patriots, 36-15 entering Saturday, ranked No. 57 in the national power ratings, according to boydsworld.com. Among MVC schools, that ranks second behind No. 47 Creighton.
The goal of adding the Patriots is to boost the MVC's RPI rank. This season, they would have given the MVC five top-100 teams.
Dallas Baptist swept a series from Indiana State in February and own victories over Oklahoma State, TCU, Rice, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. WSU defeated the Patriots 6-2 in early March.
Dallas Baptist is NCAA Division I in baseball and Division II in other sports. Because scheduling is usually done in two-season increments, the Patriots will play all MVC schools in weekend series in 2012 and 2013.
After the 2012 season, the Valley will decide if it wants to invite Dallas Baptist to join. Regardless of that decision, Dallas Baptist will remain on schedules in 2013.
New on the net — WSU men's tennis coach Brad Louderback needs a new No. 1 player. He loses senior Vlad Marinescu, who went 8-14, all at the top spot.
Croatian Gordan Brkic may be the kind of player who can fill that spot immediately. Brkic signed with WSU last week and will be a freshman in the fall. Louderback said schools such as Georgia, Alabama and Louisville recruited Brkic.
He attracted a lot of attention with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 win over Eric Johnson in the Orange Bowl tournament in February. Johnson, who signed with 2009 and 2010 NCAA champion Southern California, is ranked No. 10 nationally in boys 18s.
"That's a pretty stout win," Louderback said. "He could have joined pretty much any team in the country. He's a ferocious competitor, that's the main thing that I think I like the most."
Softball honors — WSU's Heather Gerritse and Sammie Shook were named All-MVC.
Gerritse, a senior catcher, hit .370 with 28 RBIs. It is her second first-team All-MVC selection. Shook, a sophomore third baseman, led WSU with 10 home runs. She hit .233 with a .504 slugging percentage.
Worth noting — The summer session of Shocker Fitness starts May 23. Cost is $40 for a seven weeks. Sessions begin at 5:30 a.m., 6:30 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesday's and Fridays.... Kent State is suing Bradley men's basketball coach Geno Ford for $1.2 million for breach of contract, according to the Peoria Journal Star. Ford left Kent State to coach at Bradley this spring. The lawsuit says Ford ended his contract without permission and failed to pay damages for four years remaining on his contract.