Wichita State baseball coach Todd Butler brought 26 newcomers last season in his first full swing at recruiting for the Shockers. Last November, 16 players signed with WSU from the class of 2015.
That exhausting pace of recruiting, committing and signing is slowing in Butler’s third season. The class that signs in November is expected to remain in single digits and with five non-binding commitments, plus walk-on prospects, WSU is well on its way.
“We’re about to get down to six to eight signees,” Butler said. “After two years of hard recruiting, now our recruiting classes will be small and, hopefully, consistent to where it’s six to eight signees each season.”
WSU is focusing on pitching in the class of 2016. With eight redshirt freshmen or sophomores who play a position back from 2015 and several in the incoming class, Butler feels stocked. Of the five commitments, four are pitchers with the latest Leavenworth right-hander Tommy Barnhouse (6-foot-3, 220 pounds), who committed Tuesday.
WSU also has commitments from shortstop Alex Jackson, of Flower Mound (Texas) Marcus, and pitchers Joe Dittmar of Richmond-Burton (Ill.), lefty Nathan Hawkins of Sunnyvale (Texas) and Preston Snavely of Fort Collins (Colo.). WSU coaches cannot comment on players until they sign a letter of intent.
▪ Jackson (5-11, 170) visited WSU in December and attended the Saint Louis basketball game at Intrust Bank Arena. He played summer baseball with incoming WSU freshmen Robby Evans and Gabe Constantine.
“I just really fell in love with the school,” he said. “I liked Wichita because of the facilities — the stadium is beautiful.”
Jackson first played for Team Citius in the summer of 2014. He didn’t get much playing time early and his reaction impressed coach Omar Washington, who has seen plenty of kids quit to play elsewhere.
“He became a cheerleader, he became a leader,” Washington said. “He became more determined. He worked on his craft. The next thing you knew, he became this ungodly baseball player.”
Washington describes Jackson as a gap hitter who will develop power as he grows.
“He's a very athletic kid with a ton of talent,” he said. “He's allowed himself to become a five-tool kid with great instincts. He’s had a bunch of pro teams contacting him. A lot of people are taking notice of Mr. Jackson right now.”
Jackson said he also considered Dallas Baptist, Oklahoma and Texas-Arlington.
▪ Prep Baseball Report ranks Snavely (6-6, 190) the No. 6 prospect in Colorado from the class of 2016.
“It seemed like a great hometown to play baseball in,” Snavely said. “(Coach) Brent Kemnitz has had an excellent career there — that’s the main reason why I went, his (30-plus) years experience.”
Snavely said his two-seam fastball runs up to 92 mph and is consistently 88-89. He also throws a changeup, curve and slider.
▪ Dittmar (6-2, 215) liked Butler’s recruiting pitch when it touched on matters outside baseball.
“The coaches were No. 1,” he said. “My goal is to play at the highest level I can one day and I think they can help me get there. One of the things he told me was that he would make me a better person physically, mentally and spiritually. That’s something that set him apart from any other coach I talked to.”
Dittmar said he also considered Miami (Ohio), Missouri State, Virginia Tech and Bradley.
His fastball is consistently 87-90 mph and he also throws a circle changeup and a knuckle-curve.
▪ Hawkins (6-2, 156) earned All-Class 3A honors in Texas and was named co-MVP in his district as a junior. According to the Mesquite News, he went 9-0 with a 0.71 ERA and two no-hitters.
St. Louis defender — Defensive stoppers often need to be developed. That is not the case for Xavier Sneed, a senior forward at Hazelwood Central who plays summer basketball for the St. Louis Eagles.
Sneed (6-5, 180 pounds) is more enthusiastic about defense than most players in high school.
“He loves it and takes pride in defending the best player on the other team,” Eagles president Tim Holloway said. “Part of it is his love for physical play. He doesn’t shy away from contact. Where ever he goes, I foresee him being a first-team all-defensive player at some point in his first couple years.”
Sneed recently included Wichita State on his list of five schools he is considering, in addition to Xavier, Creighton, Illinois and Kansas State. Rivals.com ranks him a four-star candidate (on a scale of five) and No. 102 nationally in the class of 2016. He averaged, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 19 points and six rebounds as a junior to earn All-Class 5 honors in Missouri and All-Metro third team honors in St. Louis.
“He’s a dream to coach,” Holloway said. “He’s a guy whose been brought up to be an all-around player.”
Holloway said Sneed is a good three-point shooter and also scores often on breaks because of his speed.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete,” Holloway said. “If we need a big shot, we know we can count on him.”
Summer hires — In late spring, Shocker Sports Properties hired Sheri Jans as senior account executive and Shane Dennis as an account executive.
Shocker Sports Properties handles WSU’s media rights and broadcast advertising sales.
Jans is the wife of former WSU assistant men’s basketball coach Chris Jans, formerly head coach at Bowling Green. She worked with Mark Rogers, general manager of Shocker Sports Properties, in a similar capacity at Preferred Health Systems.
Dennis, a former WSU pitcher, worked at Entercom Communications, where he hosted a sports talk show on KFH. Before that, he worked as WSU baseball’s director of operations.
Worth noting — WSU’s volleyball team is one of 146 programs to receive the American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award. WSU compiled a grade-point average of 3.46 in 2014. … Shocker Fitness starts its 10-week session on Monday with 5:30 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Cost is $55 for 30 workouts. … Creighton will play at Loyola on Dec. 5, its first game against a Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball team since the Bluejays departed in 2013. The game is a long-delayed return of a 2010 BracketBusters game.