Paul Suellentrop

WSU notes: Willie Schwanke waits on rehab plan before deciding his future

Wichita State’s Willie Schwanke hasn’t pitched since March 20.
Wichita State’s Willie Schwanke hasn’t pitched since March 20. The Wichita Eagle

Willie Schwanke started three games for Wichita State as a pitcher and threw 33 innings.

That will likely be enough to get him drafted in June, perhaps in the top 20 rounds. His back-to-back starts against UC Santa Barbara and Southern Illinois, in which he struck out 11 and allowed three earned runs in 14 1/3 innings, stamped him as a prospect worth watching.

He hasn’t pitched since, however, after tearing his lat muscle throwing the final pitch of that March 20 win over Southern Illinois. That makes his future uncertain. A professional team might draft him and see how he throws this summer before deciding on a bonus offer.

“There’s a lot of options about the next level,” he said. “It still could happen, or it still could not. I’m not worried about that. I’m just trying to listen to the doctors.”

Schwanke, a junior right-hander from Frisco, Texas, is open to returning to WSU next season. He wants to coach, so getting his degree is a priority.

“I’d get to be done with school,” he said. “That is definitely something important. It would be awesome to come back here and have a winning season.”

The Shockers would welcome him back. He started the third game of the season, then moved into the bullpen and played first base and DH. He returned to the starting rotation against UCSB, replacing the injured Sam Tewes, and pitched like a solid No. 1 starter for two games. In seven appearances, he compiled a 3.00 ERA with 25 strikeouts and 11 walks.

He is playing catch, 25 throws at 45 feet, now. He expects to start a more rigorous throwing program this week, depending on the results of his most recent trip to the doctor.

“Small, small steps,” he said. “It is getting there. It definitely feels a lot better.”

Once Schwanke is recovered, he has a spot reserved in the Cape Cod League. However, a timetable for pitching is unsure until he gets deeper into his rehab.

“It would be nice to be able to throw full-bore by July,” he said. “But what they talked about is a three-week throwing program on flat ground. Then they’ll have a mound program that I haven’t seen yet.”

Protecting the aces — The MVC Tournament starts Wednesday, one day later than in previous seasons with the eight-team format.

Coaches wanted to push back the openers, associate commissioner Jack Watkins said, to give their top pitchers another day of rest. With the old schedule, pitchers threw on Thursday in the final regular-season series and came back on Tuesday. During the rest of the season, they are used to a full week, usually, between starts.

“The coaches were paying attention to the (No. 1 starters) and felt that the extra day of rest would make a big difference,” Watkins said.

A case in point would be Evansville pitcher Kyle Freeland, who lasted five innings and gave up five hits and four runs in last year’s opener. In June, he went to Colorado with the No. 8 pick in the draft.

The switch will mean most schools will not bring back their top starter for Saturday’s championship game. In 2013, Wichita State’s Cale Elam threw four innings and Illinois State’s Chris Razo seven in Tuesday games. Both started in Saturday’s championship, with Elam throwing seven innings and Razo six.

The change eliminates Friday as the “if necessary” day and a cushion against rain. That is less of an issue now that the championship game is on ESPN3, like the rest of the tournament. In the past, the MVC had to play its championship game when Fox Sports Midwest provided a time.

With ESPN3, the MVC could finish on Sunday, if rain intervenes. The Valley must give the NCAA selection committee its automatic qualifier by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, in advance of Monday’s selection show.

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

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