The Wichita State baseball team is headed to last-place Memphis for its final conference series wanting to take out some frustration.
The source of the Shockers' frustration isn't one particular game, really, but rather the entire season in the American Athletic Conference. WSU has won just one of six series and its 7-13-1 conference record is being used as the argument against the Shockers playing in an NCAA Regional despite their 32 wins and top-40 RPI.
That frustration may have peaked on Tuesday when WSU lost its home finale 7-3 to Kansas State, a team with a No. 130 RPI.
"It's a bad one, as far as RPI goes," WSU manager Todd Butler said. "I'm sure it knocks us way down. We played really poorly and now it comes down to how they want to finish. Really, truly we've done as much as you can do getting these players here. Now it's up to them."
This season was believed to feature Butler's strongest team in his five-year run at WSU. The Shockers have two likely first-round draft picks in Alec Bohm and Greyson Jenista. WSU has taken a step forward this season but appears to be on the outside looking in for an NCAA Regional bid.
Even if WSU sweeps Memphis (19-34) to finish 10-13-1 in AAC play, the Shockers likely need to at the very least play for a championship at the AAC tournament in Clearwater, Fla. next week if they hope to make it. WSU plays at Memphis on Thursday and Friday at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m.
"We have to finish the week at Memphis," Butler said. "They have a guy that throws between 94 and 98 mph with a plus slider. This guy is really good, and if we go in there and take them for granted because they're a few games below us, then the same thing can happen (that happened against K-State)."
Butler said he doesn't put any stock into NCAA Regional projections. He hears what pundits are saying about the Shockers (right now they're not included in any projected field), but he doesn't make postseason talk an emphasis with his players.
"My job is to coach, not to take someone's opinion," Butler said. "The only thing that matters is when we play good baseball, we win, and when we play bad baseball, like we did (Tuesday), we don't win. You have to draw the line in the sand and decide to give it your best and then go out there and perform."
Butler, who has been a coach on 17 teams that have reached an NCAA Regional, hopes the allure of playing in WSU's first NCAA Regional since 2013 is enough to motivate the Shockers to finish the season by playing their best baseball.
"What this team hasn't done is we've never been there before, so the taste of the honey and all of the work that it takes, these guys don't know," Butler said. "I know it, but they don't know how hard of work it is to get there. And then if you really want to go to the places this program has been to in the past, then it takes even more work. People have to perform.
"I'm excited to get to Memphis and to the conference tournament and see what this team can do."