“Speed bumps” is how Wichita State shortstop Trey Vickers describes the difficult times in his relationship with coach Todd Butler this season.
“If I’d make an error, he was tough on me, because he knows I should be making those plays,” Vickers said. “Really, he was just pushing me to do better. I started realizing he really just wanted what was best and he expected more from me, and that’s why he was so upset.”
After weeks of back and forth, Vickers sent Butler a text. He wanted to meet. They talked the next day during practice.
“We talked it out,” Vickers said. “We got on the same page with each other, figured out what I needed to do to start playing better and be the team player I needed to be.”
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As Wichita State winds down a disappointing season, Vickers’ improvement is one of the bright spots. The Shockers (20-33, 8-10 Missouri Valley Conference) end the regular season with a series against first-place Dallas Baptist (35-16, 13-4) at Eck Stadium. The Shockers can finish as high as fourth in the MVC, or as low as No. 7. Dallas Baptist needs one win to wrap up its first MVC title in three seasons as a member.
.252Trey Vickers’ batting average as a freshman
.336Vickers’ batting average this season
.447Vickers batting average the past 10 games
Butler wanted to see more passion from Vickers, a sophomore from Lee’s Summit, Mo. Butler wanted to see him charge groundballs like he did as a freshman. Fewer popups and more line drives.
“I was hard on him, and he didn’t like it,” Butler said. “It took a couple of weeks. I think we met twice and he finally sent me a text message. When I received that text message, I felt like ‘Here he comes, he’s ready to go now.’ ”
Vickers, over the past month, is going more than any other Shocker. On April 10, he went 0 for 3 at Evansville to drop his average to .230, part of an eight-day stretch in which he also committed four errors in five games. After Tuesday’s 3-for-4 performance in a win over Kansas, he is hitting a team-leading .336 with three errors in the last 20 games. Over his past 10 games, he is hitting .447 with a home run and three doubles.
Health is also important. Vickers played his freshman season with a back brace to protect a stress fracture to his fifth lumbar vertabrae. Now that Vickers is more than a year past that injury, Butler sees a player who can move freely, especially on defense.
“He just made a complete turnaround,” Butler said. “He’s been on fire defensively, offensively, playing with great passion. He’s having fun. It’s good to see him being Trey Vickers.”
That version of Vickers blossomed in a 4-for-4 night in a loss at Kansas on April 19. He has hits in 15 of the 17 games since that night, scoring 11 runs and driving in 11, usually out of the No. 9 spot in the batting order. In Tuesday’s 7-6 win over Kansas, he singled in the tying run in the eighth inning and scored the winning run.
“I’m not a power guy, so I’m swinging down on the ball and hitting more groundballs than I do pop flys,” Vickers said. “I started doing that and I started seeing some success and I got confident.”
Worth noting — WSU sophomore Cody Tyler will start Friday’s game. Sunday’s starter is undetermined. … Friday and Saturday’s games are on ESPN3.com. … WSU closer John Hayes earned his fifth save on Tuesday against Kansas. In his past six appearance, he has three saves with a 1.42 ERA in 6 1/3 innings. He hasn’t allowed a run since May 7 against Indiana State. … WSU OF Travis Young is hitting .500 over the past 10 games.
Dallas Baptist at Wichita State
- When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
- Where: Eck Stadium
- Records: DBU 35-16, 13-4 MVC; WSU 20-33, 8-10
- Pitchers: DBU, LH Colin Poche (8-0, 2.03 ERA); WSU, RH Zach Lewis (2-8, 6.14)
- Radio: KNSS, 1330-AM
- TV: Cox 22