Wichita State’s pitching rotation went through numerous phases last season. It started with a Tewes-Anderson-Schwanke look, quickly pivoting to Tewes-Anderson-Hilliard before losing Tewes and Schwanke, trying Tyler Jones, discovering Jeb Bargfeldt, developing Chase Williams and returning to Sam Hilliard.
By the end, Isaac Anderson, Bargfeldt, Williams and Hilliard provided the pitching that helped the Shockers finish strong.
The Shockers can’t afford that much turmoil again.
WSU’s 2016 is off to a good start with the retention of Willie Schwanke and Williams after Friday’s draft deadline. With Sam Tewes on track for recovery from shoulder inflammation, WSU’s weekend rotation appears solid.
To inject a note of caution, however, it’s also a potential rotation without much history.
▪ Tewes had a great freshman season in 2014, up until the point he dislocated his right knee cap in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Since then, injuries derailed his 2014 summer in the Cape Cod League and 2015 season with the Shockers. He is not pitching this summer and is expected to be ready for fall practice.
▪ Schwanke transformed himself from a two-way player to a pitcher with significant draft potential with 6 2/3 innings against Cal Santa Barbara (and first-round draft pick Dillon Tate) and 7 2/3 against Southern Illinois a week later. He gave up 15 hits and three earned runs in those outings, striking out 11 and walking five. A torn lat muscle ended his season.
▪ Williams was WSU’s most improved pitcher over the course of 2015, transforming himself from a power arm with erratic control to the man who threw the team’s lone complete game.
So that’s three pitchers with significant upside, enviable high points and short track records. The loss of sophomore-to-be Bargfeldt, who transferred to a junior college in hopes of playing two ways, hurts. Shocker coaches thought they retained Anderson for a few hours after the draft before the Dodgers upped their offer for the 40th-round pick.
WSU will need several more starters, perhaps to come from a group of four — redshirt freshman Cody Tyler and juco transfers Tyler Gibson, Zach Lewis and Justin Seiwald. Gibson, who started his career at Oklahoma, appears to be the best candidate after a good season at Seminole (Okla.) State where he went 7-2 with a 2.45 ERA. Lewis, after a strong freshman season at Wabash (Ill.) Valley, struggled during an injury-plagued sophomore season.
Lots of things went wrong for WSU in 2015. Friday’s good news provides hope that 2016 will be different, with a lot less rotating in the rotation.