Kristi Bredbenner helps preview 2019 WSU softball team
Wednesday was an exciting night to be a Shocker fan.
In less than a two-hour span, the Wichita State men’s basketball survived a close game to advance in the National Invitation Tournament with a 76-70 victory at Furman, the softball team beat Kansas with a walk-off hit in extra innings, then the baseball team won in the 13th inning at Eck Stadium on a walk-off home run by Hunter Gibson to beat Kansas.
“I was in (Wichita) and I was able to set it up where I had my iPad watching YurView 22 and then my phone on the other game, so I was able to watch all three,” WSU athletic director Darron Boatright said. “It was a lot of fun to see all three of them come down to the wire and the Shockers get it done in all three.”
For baseball and softball, it was a pair of important nonconference wins that gave the Shockers momentum heading into the start of American Athletic Conference play. The baseball team hosts Memphis in a three-game series at Eck Stadium starting 6 p.m. Friday, while the softball team hosts Houston in a three-game series at Wilkins Stadium starting 6 p.m. Friday.
The 11-10 victory at Kansas was not only a dramatic one for WSU, but a much-needed one after the Shockers lost four of five in their final nonconference tournament last week. The Shockers now get the chance to start a winning streak at home, where they play their next nine games.
Although WSU softball (19-9) was picked to finish second in the AAC in the preseason, the Shockers (RPI of 73) will have stiff competition again with Tulsa (25), UCF (37), South Florida (38) and Houston (42). Winning the first conference series against Houston would set a good tone.
WSU’s offense has been solid through the first six weeks of the season with a .306 team batting average. Junior catcher Madison Perrigan has elevated her production this season, as she is hitting .346 with team-highs in doubles (7), triples (2), home runs (5), runs batted in (21) and walks (24). Herring (.350), Wylie Glover (.333), Asea Webber (.329), Sydney McKinney (.317) and Ryleigh Buck (.300) have all been hitting well for the Shockers.
If the baseball team wants to outperform its preseason prediction of seventh place in the American, then WSU needs at the very least a series win this weekend against a Memphis team that was unanimously selected last in the conference. A sweep would be a strong opening statement by the Shockers (9-11).
“The big key fighting for a conference championship is winning two out of three every weekend,” WSU manager Todd Butler said. “You cannot get swept like we were last year at Houston. Those weekends cannot happen if you’re going to compete. This is the fourth-toughest conference in the country. There’s great competition every weekend. We’ve got to be ready to play.”
Through 20 games, WSU’s middle infielders lead the team in hitting. Jordan Boyer (.435 average, 12 RBIs) and Luke Ritter (.405 average, four home runs, 18 RBIs) have been excellent, while Gibson has also come on as of late with a .329 average and 15 RBIs.
After pitching was an issue last season during conference play, the problem has carried over into this season. The Shockers’ pitching staff carries a 6.18 earned-run average into the weekend and WSU will look for better outings from its starters with Preston Snavely (1-2, 5.27 ERA) on Friday, freshman Cal Carver (3-1, 4.29 ERA) on Saturday and then a starter to be named later on Sunday.