Last season: WSU finished 21-37 for its second consecutive losing season. It tied for fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference at 9-12 before it was eliminated in two games, scoring a total of three runs, in the MVC Tournament.
This season: WSU is tied for fourth in the MVC preseason poll of coaches with Indiana State. Defending champion Dallas Baptist is the favorite.
The Shockers return seven position starters, including preseason All-MVC picks Alec Bohm (3B) and Luke Ritter (2B/DH).
Greyson Jenista (OF) was the MVC co-Freshman of the Year last season after hitting .382 in conference play. Trey Vickers (SS) was the lone Shocker to earn a first-team All-MVC spot.
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Willie Schwanke (5-3, 3.40 ERA) will start Friday’s opener.
Cody Tyler (3-5, 4.46), a second-team All-MVC pick last season, starts Saturday with Connor Lungwitz (2-2, 7.58) scheduled for Sunday.
Zach Lewis (2-9, 5.96), Reagan Biechler (0-0, 3.97), Tyler Jones (2-0, 6.18) and Clayton McGinness (2-2), 7.48) are the most experienced returners.
Junior transfer Ben Hecht could develop into one of the top relievers. Freshman lefty Alex Segal is expected to compete for a starting job.
Gunnar Troutwine (.278 batting average, 7 home runs) returns for his second season as the starter. Freshman Noah Croft redshirted last season after shoulder surgery.
Bohm (.303, .489 slugging percentage, 6 home runs) is expected to continue to hit with power and play improved defense at third.
“Much improved,” coach Todd Butler said. “He went from 240 (pounds) as a freshman to 220. He’s running better than he did a year ago.”
Josh DeBacker (286, 2 doubles) will play first base, allowing Jenista to move to the outfield. Butler likes DeBacker’s defense at first, a position he did not play last season.
Jordan Boyer (.462, 2 triples) played in 11 games, starting one, last season and will start at second base. Vickers (.306, 6 doubles) returns at shortstop.
Luke Ritter (.272, 3 home runs) will hit cleanup as the DH in the opener. He started 28 games at second last season.
Jenista (.326, 5 home runs, .431 on-base percentage) moves to right field and will lead off, followed by left fielder Dayton Dugas (.304, 4 home runs) and Bohm.
“We’re going to put the big three right at the beginning, load them up at the top of the order,” Butler said.
Travis Young (.317, 5 doubles), WSU’s speediest outfielder, will play center, where he started 10 games last season.
Freshman Alex Jackson recently moved to outfield after spending most of the fall and spring on the middle infield.
“He’s really pushing with the bat,” Butler said. “He can really run.”