The Wichita State baseball team took a step forward in Todd Butler's fifth season, but it came to a disappointing end in Clearwater, Fla., in the American Athletic Conference tournament on Thursday.
After splitting games on Wednesday to stay alive in the double-elimination tournament, WSU bowed out Thursday morning in its third game, a 7-2 loss to South Florida.
The loss likely ends the season without a NCAA Regional for WSU for the fifth straight year. The Shockers compiled an impressive 25-5 non-conference record, but finished 10-16-1 against AAC competition and in seventh place in a nine-team conference.
But overall, the 2018 season was a step forward for WSU under Butler. The Shockers recorded the most wins in a season (35) in Butler's five seasons and officially since the 2011 season (2012 and 2013 records were vacated). WSU also improved its performance on the road, where it was 11-11 this season after going 15-58 the last three seasons.
On Thursday, starter Liam Eddy struggled to contain USF's bats early in the game. The Bulls scored four runs in the first three innings, knocking Eddy out of the game before he could record an out in the third inning. That put WSU in a 4-1 hole that it couldn't escape.
South Florida tacked on three more runs in the seventh inning to build a 7-1 lead, while Trey Vickers finished the game with both of WSU's RBIs. Dayton Dugas had two of WSU's five hits in the game.
WSU only graduates five seniors (starters Gunnar Troutwine and Trey Vickers, along with pitchers Chandler Sanburn, Cody Tyler, and Adam Keller), but is also expected to lose a few players to June's MLB Draft. Junior third baseman Alec Bohm is projected near the top of the draft, while junior outfielder Greyson Jenista is also projected to be a first-rounder.