The Wichita State baseball team didn’t pick up a win in either of its fall scrimmages, but that didn’t stop first-year coach Eric Wedge from taking away positives from each of the 12-inning outings.
WSU lost 10-8 against Nebraska at home, then lost 17-5 at Missouri State. Now the Shockers will conclude their fall slate with the five-game Black & Yellow World Series, which started Saturday. The next games are 1 p.m. Monday, 1 p.m. Tuesday, 2 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday at Eck Stadium.
“There’s a lot to take away just because it was a big opportunity for us to get better,” Wedge said. “When you go out there and play a different team in a different uniform in a different atmosphere, it puts young people in situations they haven’t been in for awhile, if at all. You see how they go out there and play and watch them compete. There are a lot of things you can take away from that.”
Wedge has declined to single out individual performers who have made an impression early in his tenure. But all signs point toward veterans in the program who have taken a leadership role, namely seniors Alex Jackson, Jacob Katzfey, Preston Snavely and Tommy Barnhouse and juniors Ross Cadena, Paxton Wallace and Liam Eddy.
With the fall session nearly complete, Wedge said he has been pleased with the progress his team has made.
“I feel like everyone has really bought into the program,” Wedge said. “Their work ethic is real. Their effort is real. I think the mindset will continue to progress and eventually when we get everybody ready, we’re going to have the culture we want to have here. It’s a work in progress, but we’re pushing in the right direction.”
WSU saved its best performance of the fall season for last, picking up a road win at Kansas, 4-3, thanks to a seventh-inning home run by Lauren Mills. The win capped a 6-1 campaign for the Shockers this fall.
“Our team has a solid foundation and I’m very happy with the progression with our new pitching coach (Morgan Lashley),” WSU coach Kristi Bredbenner said. “Pitching has been an area where we’ve been up and down, but I think there’s a lot more potential for us to have quite a bit of success this year in that area. I’m really excited about the direction we’re headed.”
WSU returned seven starters and its entire pitching staff, including a now-healthy Bailey Lange, from a 32-win club. The Shockers also added six freshmen in their recruiting class, which Bredbenner believes has injected the roster with depth.
After missing the majority of last season due to injury, Lange has returned this fall and shown glimpses of being the all-conference pitcher and outfielder she was in 2017.
“We were a little hesitant with her because the last thing we want is for her to have a set back with that ankle,” Bredbenner said. “She took her time and she’s getting after it. She would say she wasn’t in the best shape when we started, but over time she’s getting there and you can see a difference in her swing and her pitching. She’s starting to get in her groove.”
Doubles pair Marius Frosa and Murkel Dellien were ranked No. 5 in the country to begin the season, the second-highest ranking for a doubles pairing in program history behind Roberto Saad and Paul Smith, who were ranked No. 2 during the 1982-83 season.
Last season Frosa and Dellien climbed as high as No. 20 in the spring, then made a historic run that reached the Elite 8 at the NCAA Championships. Frosa and Dellien finished the spring season 9-1 with three wins over top-10 opponents.
As a result, Frosa and Dellien became the first doubles pair in program history to receive a doubles main draw at the ITA All-American Championships.
Up next: Frosa and Dellien, as well as the rest of the Shockers, will be back in competition at the ITA Central Region Championships in Norman, Okla. from Oct. 24-28.
WSU’s newly formed No. 1 doubles team of Marta Bellucco and Sandra Honigova were ranked No. 42 in the ITA preseason rankings.
Bellucco and Honigova weren’t each other’s primary partners last season, but they did team up for a 6-3 record as a No. 2 doubles team last spring. Bellucco paired with Fatima Bizhukova last season and the two were ranked as high as No. 14 in the country before losing in the second round of the NCAA Championships.
“Marta and Sandra have played together off and on the past two seasons with solid results,” coach Colin Foster said. “They are playing well in practice and looked good in their first tournament. They’ll have plenty of opportunities this fall to continue building their chemistry and improve as a pair.”
The Shockers have had highly successful showings at tournaments at Drake and SMU so far this season. The doubles team of Sarvinoz Saidhujaeva and Esther Thebault have claimed doubles titles at both events.
Up next: The Shockers will compete in the ITA Central Regional Championships in Norman, Okla., from Oct. 17-22.
The Shockers are coming off their best 54-hole performance, relative to par, since March 2016 after posting a 4-under to finish seventh at the David Toms Invitational at LSU this past weekend.
“We took quite a big step in the first two rounds when we were 8-under after two rounds, but then we took a big step backwards,” WSU coach Judd Easterling said. “We had a chance to play well against (defending AAC champion) Memphis, but we can still take away positives from it.”
Zac Owens (4-under, 16th) and Joe Bultman (2-under, 20th) each notched top-20 finishes at the tournament. Dawson Lewis also scored a top-20 finish at the season-opening Marshall Invitational.
Up next: WSU will play a 36-hole tournament at the Herb Wimberly Invitational in Las Cruces, N.M. starting Monday.
Senior Michelle Ledermann has led the Shockers in two of three fall tournaments, highlighted by her first career top-10 finish at the Payne Stewart Memorial with a three-day score of 219 , tying her career low, and fourth-place finish.
Sophomore Hana Mirnik also flashed earlier this month at the Johnie Imes Invitational, notching a top-20 finish with a three-day total of 224 strokes for 18th place.
Up next: WSU will play another three-day tournament at the Palmetto Invitational in Charleston, S.C. starting Sunday.