Wichita State Shockers

Wichita State baseball hoping its pitching improves for important homestand this week

WSU baseball coach Todd Butler previews 2019 season

The Wichita State baseball season begins this weekend in Phoenix. WSU coach Todd Butler helps preview how the 2019 season is looking for the Shockers.
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The Wichita State baseball season begins this weekend in Phoenix. WSU coach Todd Butler helps preview how the 2019 season is looking for the Shockers.

The first 19 games of the season were always going to be difficult for the Wichita State baseball team.

That’s how manager Todd Butler intended the nonconference schedule to work, which continues 7 p.m. Wednesday at Eck Stadium when the Shockers (8-11) host Kansas (13-6) for a mid-week game.

But Butler has been disappointed in the team’s pitching staff, which has a 6.56 earned-run average. The WSU pitchers have issued 116 walks, a staggering number when compared to the 72 walks the Shockers have drawn.

Free passes were again an issue when WSU played a two-win Rhode Island team to a split of a four-game series at home. WSU walked 30 hitters in the first three games.

“The lesson we learned is it’s hard to win when you give away that many free passes,” Butler said. “We just need to find the strike zone. Right now we haven’t been very consistent. We’re not in the zone, not having good tempo, not attacking and not really competing with our starting pitching.”

In the first three games against Rhode Island, Preston Snavely (4 1/3), Tommy Barnhouse (3 2/3) and Liam Eddy (3 1/13) failed to get out of the fifth inning or exit with WSU in the lead.

Snavely, Barnhouse and senior Clayton McGinness were expected to be a solid trio as WSU’s top three starters this season. But through the first five weeks of the season, Snavely is 1-2 with a 5.27 ERA in five starts, Barnhouse is 0-2 with an 8.40 ERA in four starts and McGinness is 2-2 with a 6.16 ERA in seven appearances.

“We have to find a way to get those guys going,” Butler said. “Those are leaders who haven’t had success after five weeks that we need. Right now our weekend rotation is Snavely, (freshman Cal) Carver and then it’s TBA on Sunday. We’ve got to figure that out.”

Butler mentioned WSU’s pitching staff has also had a rash of injuries. Ryan Stuempfig is experiencing shoulder soreness a year after his Tommy John surgery; reliever Jacob Lindemann has been limited to 2 1/3 innings because of an injury and freshman Calvin Marley has yet to pitch because of an injury.

WSU has played a difficult schedule, which has included Stanford, Texas Tech, Pepperdine and Oklahoma State. But not being able to win a series against Rhode Island with a RPI of 207 hurt.

“I was hoping to get above .500 and maybe be at 10-9 after Rhode Island, but we didn’t do that,” Butler said. “To lose two games at home in a doubleheader, that’s not good. You have to do better than that.”

Stuempfig will make his return to the mound Wednesday, his first start since Feb. 16. Butler said he plans on keeping him on a 40- to 50-pitch count.

The team’s leading hitter, Jordan Boyer, who is hitting .435, will miss Wednesday’s game because of a rib injury, but plans on playing in WSU’s conference opener this weekend against Memphis, which starts Friday at Eck Stadium.

A good week for the Shockers will mean a good start on the mound.

“We are going to have to have better tempo on the mound and we will have to compete better,” Butler said. “That’s the bottom line for the rest of our season, honestly.”

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