Many Wichita State fans are still coming down from the men’s basketball team’s exhilarating run to the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament in New York City.
Now that the men’s basketball season has come to a close, Shockers fans can turn their attention to spring sports.
Here’s a primer on what’s happened so far:
What you missed: The Shockers were picked to finish second in the American, but a season-ending injury to their best player, pitcher-outfielder Bailey Lange, early in the season hurt. WSU sputtered in a tournament following Lange’s exit, lost a mid-week games Oklahoma State and Missouri and lost its first two AAC series, 2-1, but the Shockers did just rebound to beat conference-leading and previously unbeaten Central Florida back-to-back days on the road to win the series. The Shockers are 23-17 and 4-5, tied for fourth in the AAC.
Why to watch: WSU is playing for its third NCAA Regional in the last four years under coach Kristi Bredbenner. The Shockers have been an entertaining team to watch, as they feature the top offense in the American with the most hits, the most runs scored and the most home runs. Junior Madison Perrigan has become a must-watch: She leads the AAC with eight home runs to go along with a .325 batting average, a conference-best 75 total bases and a team-best 30 runs batted in.
What’s coming up: The Shockers head to Fayetteville on Wednesday for an afternoon game against the same Arkansas program that knocked them out last season in the NCAA regional championship game. WSU will be eying another series win when it heads to Memphis (21-19, 3-6) for a weekend AAC series. WSU returns home with a series against East Carolina (19-19, 1-7) from April 18-20.
What you missed: A disappointing series split against Rhode Island dropped WSU to a 7-11 start to the season, but the Shockers have bounced back to win 11 of their last 14 games to move to 18-14 on the season and 3-3 in conference play. The streak included mid-week wins over Kansas (twice) and Kansas State, as well as a series win over Memphis to start AAC play. The Shockers rallied from an 11-5 deficit in the ninth inning to beat Tulane, 12-11, in extra innings this weekend.
Why to watch: The Shockers are vying for their first NCAA Regional appearance since Gene Stephenson’s final season in 2013. While an 18-14 record doesn’t stand out, WSU’s RPI has been skyrocketing since its 11-3 stretch the last three weeks and now rests at 58. The Shockers also feature one of the top offenses in the conference, highlighted by career years from senior middle infielders Luke Ritter and Jordan Boyer. Ritter leads the conference in on-base percentage (.513) to go along with team-highs in batting average (.398), runs scored (35), hits (49), doubles (11), home runs (7) and runs batted in (28), while Boyer is hitting .382 for the fourth-best average in the AAC.
What’s coming up: WSU plays its next eight games at Eck Stadium with all coming against top-75 RPI competition. It’s a crucial stretch for the Shockers, as they have a chance with a good next two weeks to bolster an at-large bid to an NCAA Regional. It starts Wednesday with a 7 p.m. game against Oklahoma State (19-10, RPI 25), then continues with a weekend series starting at 7 p.m. Friday against Houston (17-15, RPI 74). Next week brings games against Central Florida (20-11, RPI 35) from April 18-20, followed by a Tuesday game on April 23 against Oklahoma (23-9, RPI 36).
Track and field
What you missed: The outdoor season is just two weeks old, but Winny Koskei has already taken down a 31-year-old program record. Koskei’s time of 9 minutes, 40.68 seconds in the 3,000 meters was a full six seconds faster than the previous record held by Kathryn Evans (9:46.90) in 1988. On the men’s team, Rayvon Allen has climbed the program’s long jump list with a personal-best of 25 feet, 5¼ inches for the seventh-best mark all time. Senior graduate transfer Cory Martens, a Newton native, has also landed on the program’s discus (171-1, No. 11) and hammer throw (201-5, No. 5) lists. The men’s team is currently ranked No. 41 in the country in the USTFCCCA poll, No. 6 in the Midwest regional and third-best in the American. The women’s team is ranked No. 7 in the Midwest regional and third-best in the American.
Why to watch: Both teams are stocked with top-tier athletes and will be competing for AAC titles in front of a home audience later this season. The women’s team features one of the best distance duos in the country in Koskei and Rebekah Topham. Kelsey Slawson (shot put) and Carlea Holt (javelin) both hold school records and give WSU plenty of punch in the throws. On the men’s team, jumpers Jared Belardo and Rayvon Allen both have the chance to win titles in the long and triple jumps. Zack Penrod is competitive in the 1,500 and Austin Corley is in the 400 hurdles.
What’s coming up: The annual K.T. Woodman Classic is coming up Wednesday through Saturday this week at Cessna Stadium. The Shockers will also head to Lawrence for the KU Relays, Des Moines for the Drake Relays and Lubbock, Texas, for the Red Raider Shootout. But the crown jewel of the schedule comes May 10-12, when WSU will host the AAC Outdoor Championships at Cessna Stadium.
What you missed: The women’s and men’s programs have both spent time in the national team rankings this season. For the 13th season in a row, the women’s team found its way into the rankings and climbed as high as No. 36. The men’s team also cracked the top 40, at No. 39, the first time it has done so since 1983. While neither team is currently ranked in the latest ITA-Oracle poll, the men’s team is 14-9 in dual play and the women’s team is 11-9. The men’s doubles tandem of juniors Murkel Dellien and Marius Frosa currently ranks No. 26 with a perfect 7-0 record and a pair of wins over top-30 competition. On the women’s team, junior Fatima Bizhukova has returned to the lineup and recently defeated No. 7 Sophie Whittle of Gonzaga to register the third top-10 singles win of her career. After missing the start of the season due to eligibility issues, Bizhukova has already ascended to No. 106 in the singles rankings with a 3-1 record in the top slot.
Why to watch: The women’s team finally has its full lineup with Bizhukova back, and the Shockers will be looking to build off last season’s win in the first round of NCAA Tournament play — just the second NCAA tourney win in program history. The men’s team should also make a strong push to return to NCAA Tournament action after missing out the last two seasons. To do so, the men will need a better showing at the conference tournament after bowing out without a win the last two seasons.
What’s coming up: The men’s team has its final regular-season tune-up on Monday at Texas-Arlington before the Shockers compete in the AAC Championships in Orlando, Fla., from April 18-21. The women’s team has a doubleheader at home to conclude its regular season this Saturday, starting at 11 a.m. against Tulsa and continuing at 3 p.m. against Saint Louis at Coleman Tennis Complex. The women’s team will also head to Orlando for the AAC Championships on April 17-20.
What you missed: The men’s team had a strong fall, but its scoring average has jumped seven strokes — up to 299.7 — this spring. Senior Yannik Emmert leads the way with a 72.4 average, with five top-20 finishes and three top-10 finishes in eight events this season. The women’s team recently broke the program record for the lowest 54-hole score (875) at the Red Rocks Invitational in Sedona, Ariz. Seniors Laine Evans (75.1) and Gavrilla Arya (75.5) and freshman Hana Mirnik (75.6) have each registered one top-10 finish and three top-20 finishes in seven events this season.
Why to watch: This year will be the last one for men’s head coach Grier Jones, who will complete his 24th season at the helm. Jones helped rejuvenate the men’s golf program when hired in 1995 and in his fourth season had already delivered a conference championship to WSU, the first in 20 years. In total, Jones was a 13-time Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year and led WSU to 15 conference championships and 13 NCAA Regional appearances, with the Shockers advancing to the NCAA Championships in 2003 and 2004.
What’s coming up: The men’s team will play tournaments in Arizona and Texas before competing in the AAC championships in Palm Harbor, Fla. from April 21-23. The women’s final tune-up is Monday and Tuesday in Kansas City before they take part in the AAC championships in Palm Coast, Fla., from April 14-16.