Wichita State Shockers

Wichita State coach Todd Butler ponders next season after 0-2 in the MVC Tournament

WSU pitching coach Brent Kemnitz, left, talks with catcher Gunnar Troutwine during Thursday’s elimination loss to Indiana State.
WSU pitching coach Brent Kemnitz, left, talks with catcher Gunnar Troutwine during Thursday’s elimination loss to Indiana State. Indiana State Media Relations

Wichita State’s Chase Rader grounded out to end the game, walked off the field with his hands clasped over his head and hugged teammate Zach Reding, bringing to a close the worst baseball season in modern WSU history.

The sixth-seeded Shockers are done in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament after a 7-1 loss to Indiana State, winless and left to contemplate the revival of the program that lost its fan support, swagger and stature. WSU ended its second straight losing season at 21-37 and with a losing MVC record (9-12) for a second straight season, both unfathomable occurrences not too long ago. Its 0-2 departure from the tournament is its first since 2012.

Coach Todd Butler will return in 2017 for his fourth season with a 78-98 record, 32-31 in MVC play. Interim athletic director Darron Boatright backed Butler, who has four years remaining on a guaranteed contract, earlier this week, saying that Butler has his full support.

“It’s exciting to see what we have for the future,” Butler said earlier this week. “Everyone wants it fast. I think it’s coming. There are no excuses. We will keep working.”

Perhaps less clear is the future of pitching coach Brent Kemnitz, who has seen his role diminish over the past three seasons. He has two seasons remaining on his guaranteed contract, a deal he signed in 2013 when he stayed on as pitching coach and helped hire Butler, after WSU fired former coach Gene Stephenson. Under Stephenson, Kemnitz handled all things pitching. The division of labor is different under Butler and, for reasons that include injuries, it has not worked.

Early in Butler’s tenure, Butler took pitch-calling duties away from the catcher, a long Shocker tradition, and gave them to assistant coach Brian Walker. Kemnitz is no longer recruiting coordinator and Butler will take over scheduling duties for next season. At least twice this season, Kemnitz missed games while on a recruiting trip, something unprecedented in his previous 37 seasons.

Even his Saturday postgame radio show, a staple for many years with radio voice Mike Kennedy, ended this season.

Amid changes and serious injury problems, Shocker pitching faltered the past two seasons. Its 5.10 ERA in 2015 and 5.97 this season stand as the worst since 6.20 in 1978.

Butler, when asked about possible changes to the coaching staff and specifically regarding Kemnitz, responded: “Brent is our pitching coach. Right now I’m just trying to get on the bus and get back to Wichita.”

Kemnitz did not respond to a text message requesting comment.

Regardless of who handles the pitching staff next season, upgrading that piece of WSU baseball is essential if Butler is to return WSU toward the top of the MVC. Injuries robbed the Shockers of their No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers early in both of the past two seasons. Beyond those crippling injuries, the rest of the staff struggled to fill roles and keep games close.

WSU’s freshmen hitters — including MVC Freshman of the Year Greyson Jenista and second-team All-MVC pick Alec Bohm — are reason for hope.

“We need to get arms,” Butler said. “That’s been the goal, trying to get some pitching. If you look at the next recruiting class, it’s mainly pitchers.”

On Thursday, sophomore Cody Tyler provided a few innings of relief from the pitching problems. He shut out Indiana State (35-20) for five innings by scattering three hits, one a misplayed double in the second, and striking out five.

“We recently started bringing a slider back in, and earlier this season, they hadn’t seen the slider,” Tyler said. “I was trying to work ahead as best I could, so I could go back the slider. Seeing it work was a good feeling.”

WSU’s hitters exited Warn Field after compiling seven hits and three runs in losses to Bradley and Indiana State. On Thursday, center fielder Travis Young homered for WSU’s lone run.

“Two days in a row, we couldn’t put any offense together,” Butler said.

Indiana State got to Tyler in the sixth inning when he yielded a leadoff walk and a one-out home run to Tony Rosselli, who mashed a 3-2 pitch from Tyler over the 372-foot marker in left field. Rosselli, in the second inning, pulled a ball hit over the left-field fence back into play to rob WSU’s Dayton Dugas of a home run.

“Huge,” Indiana State pitcher Ryan Keaffaber said. “When he jumped I thought he had a pretty good chance at it.”

Dugas missed his fifth home run of the season by a few inches and the Shockers also missed a chance to get on top early. Dugas watched Keaffaber, who said he has a gall bladder condition, throw up in the dugout before the at-bat and figured the pitcher would throw him a fastball to get ahead in the count.

“I knew I hit it well and I knew in this place it flies pretty well,” Dugas said. “Rounding second, I looked up and their dugout was screaming. Tip the hat to him. I got robbed. I need to hit it farther.”

The Sycamores went up 3-1 in the seventh. With two runners on, Andrew Gutierrez bunted toward third. WSU reliever Tyler Jones scrambled after the ball, picked it up, spun toward third and threw it past Bohm. Tyler Friis scored and things got worse for reliever Chase Williams.

Andy DeJesus followed with another bunt, which Bohm fielded on the run and threw over the glove of leaping Jenista. Two runs scored, Gutierrez from first, and DeJesus beat Dugas’ throw from right field into third. The Sycamores made it 6-1 when Gutierrez scored on an infield out by Andy Young.

“The sixth and seventh innings, we kind of fell apart,” Butler said. “I thought Cody Tyler was matching him pitch for pitch.”

WSU’s Travis Young saved it from getting worse when he robbed Kaden Moore of extra bases, stranding two runners, by crashing into the center field wall and hanging on to the ball to end the inning.

“I heard (Mikel) Mucha yell ‘wall’ and I jumped and caught it and hit the wall,” Young said. “It was kind of a blur. It felt good.”

That was WSU’s final highlight of 2016. The Shockers managed a two-out single by Mucha in the seventh and went down in order in the eighth and ninth. The final moments on the field featured the standard hugs and a trudge to the bus for the long ride home.

Evansville 4, Illinois State 3 (10) — Evansville’s Boomer Synek homered to left field to end the game and eliminate the Redbirds.

Sean Beesley homered for Illinois State (17-37), which scored a run in the eighth to tie the game. The Redbirds put runners on second and third with no outs in the top of the 10th. Evansville pitcher Ryan Brady retired the next three batters on groundballs.

Synek homered on a 2-1 pitch, leading off the 10th, to keep the Aces (28-26) alive.

Dallas Baptist 10, Southern Illinois 8 — Matt Duce’s ninth-inning home run gave the tournament its second dramatic finish of the day. Duce broke an 8-all tie with his two-run blast, his third of the game.

Duce went 3 for 4 and drove in seven runs for the Patriots (39-17), who trailed 6-0 in the fifth inning. SIU’s Hunter Anderson homered in the top of the ninth to tie the game 8-all.

Bradley 10, Missouri State 0 (7) — The Braves produced the tournament’s first run-rule to end a day started with a rain delay of almost three hours. Cameron Roegner threw a four-hitter and struck out five for Bradley (29-19).

Four MSU (35-20) pitchers walked 12 batters and allowed 10 hits.

The Braves join Dallas Baptist as the tournament’s unbeatens. Both can win the tournament with a victory on Friday and in Saturday’s championship game. The other four remaining teams need two wins Friday and two on Saturday.

Indiana State

ab

r

h

bi

bb

so

avg

DeJesus 2b

5

1

2

0

0

0

.275

A.Young 3b

3

1

2

1

2

0

.300

Owen rf

5

0

0

1

0

1

.356

Rosselli lf

4

1

2

2

1

1

.286

Tofteland dh

2

0

0

0

1

0

.238

Dungan dh

2

0

0

0

0

1

.271

Moore c

5

0

1

0

0

1

.310

Friis ss

4

1

1

0

1

0

.294

Giesler 1b

4

1

2

0

0

1

.272

Gutierrez cf

3

2

0

0

1

2

.205

Totals

37

7

10

4

6

7

Wichita State

T.Young cf

4

1

1

1

0

0

.317

Ritter 2b

3

0

0

0

0

1

.272

Kirk 2b

1

0

0

0

0

0

.245

Jenista 1b

3

0

1

0

0

0

.326

Reding ph

1

0

0

0

0

1

.308

Bohm 3b

3

0

0

0

0

1

.303

Rader 3b

1

0

0

0

0

0

.258

Dugas rf

3

0

0

0

0

0

.304

Mucha lf

3

0

1

0

0

1

.300

Troutwine c

3

0

0

0

0

0

.278

Tinkham dh

3

0

0

0

0

2

.233

Vickers ss

3

0

1

0

0

0

.306

Totals

31

1

4

1

0

6

Indiana St.

000

002

410

7 10 0

Wichita St.

000

001

000

1 4 2

E — Jones (1), Bohm (10). DP — WSU. LOB — ISU 9, WSU 3. 2B — Moore (14), A. Young (15). HR — Rosselli (10), T.Young (2). SB — Gutierrez (5).

Indiana State

ip

h

r

er

bb

so

era

Keaffaber W,6-4

9

4

1

1

0

6

3.48

Wichita State

Tyler L,3-5

6

4

2

2

2

5

4.46

Jones

0

2

3

0

0

0

5.49

Williams

1

1

1

0

2

1

6.10

Biechler

 2/3

0

1

1

2

0

3.97

Hayes

1 1/3

3

0

0

0

1

7.12

WP — Tyler (7). Umpires — home, Wayne Harris; first, Clint Wheeler; second, Ben Harlow; third, Bill McGuire.T — 2:41.

MVC Tournament

At Terre Haute, Ind.

Wednesday’s Games

  • No. 4 Southern Illinois 4, No. 5 Evansville 3
  • No. 1 Dallas Baptist 9, No. 8 Illinois St. 5
  • No. 3 Bradley 5, No. 6 Wichita St. 2
  • No. 7 Missouri St. 12, No. 2 Indiana St. 4

Thursday’s Games

  • Evansville 4, Illinois State 3 (10)
  • Indiana State 7, Wichita State 1
  • Dallas Baptist 10, Southern Illinois 8
  • Bradley 10, Missouri State 0 (7)

Friday’s Games

Losers bracket

  • Evansville (28-26) vs. Southern Illinois (31-24), 8 a.m.
  • Indiana State (35-20) vs. Missouri State (35-20), 11:30 a.m.
  • Winners bracket
  • Dallas Baptist (39-17) vs. EU/SIU winner, 3 p.m.
  • Bradley (29-19) vs. ISU/MSU winner, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday’s Games

  • If necessary — 10 a.m., 2 p.m.
  • Championship — 6 p.m
  • All games on ESPN3.com
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