Baseball fans in Wichita won't want to miss Friday's baseball series opener between South Florida and Wichita State, set for a 6 p.m. first pitch at Eck Stadium.
MLB draft scouts are expected to flock to see the main attraction of the night: South Florida's left-handed ace Shane McClanahan will pitch against Wichita State's Alec Bohm and Greyson Jenista, and all three are expected to be taken in the first round of June's MLB draft.
According to Baseball America's prospect rankings, McClanahan is the fourth-best prospect in 2018, with Bohm at No. 6 and Jenista at No. 28.
"If you're a baseball fan and you like seeing guys in college who are going to become major-league players, then you're going to want to see these guys," WSU manager Todd Butler said. "It's going to be a great challenge for us and I'm excited to see how we compete against (McClanahan)."
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McClanahan's fastball consistently hits 95 mph and has touched 100 mph on occasion. He has struck out 107 hitters in 63-plus innings. Connecticut, East Carolina and Houston all roughed him up for a combined 17 runs, but McClanahan has been nearly unhittable in his other eight starts: three earned runs and 91 strikeouts in 49 innings.
That kind of challenge has WSU's hitters excited.
"He's one heck of a pitcher," Jenista said. "Everyone talks about how we struggle off of lefties, but one thing we don't struggle off of is heat. We hit heat. So we're looking forward to the matchup."
"You love the competition," Bohm added. "I'm excited to see what he's got and I'm sure he's excited to see what we've got. I'm pretty sure (WSU fans) haven't seen a pitcher of this caliber come in here for awhile, so it should be an exciting game."
McClanahan offers the latest challenge to WSU on a Friday. The Shockers have lost all six AAC games played on Fridays, with five of those serving as series openers. WSU's offense has hit .239 and scored an average of three runs in those games, well below its season averages (.289 batting average and 6.4 runs per game).
Reversing that trend is a must for a WSU team with a good-enough overall record (31-16) and RPI (27) to receive an at-large berth in a NCAA Regional but facing questions because of its 6-12 record in AAC play.
"When you win on Friday night, then it makes it a lot easier the next two games because your back isn't up against the wall," Jenista said. "You always feel like it's easier to win the series when you win the first one."
Winning a conference series is something WSU has done once (a 2-1 edge over Tulane). In an attempt to switch things up, Butler has moved Friday starter Codi Heuer (5-5, 4.48 ERA) to Sunday. Butler said sophomore Preston Snavely (3-1, 3.97 ERA) will match up against McClanahan on Friday, while Tyler Davis (2-0, 2.48 ERA) will remain the Saturday starter.
"We're 0-6 on Fridays, which has been a concern," Butler said. "I'm going to make an adjustment and hopefully that will help break things up. The Friday night guys we've seen in conference have kind of stifled our offense, so we need to get our bats going this weekend."