illinois Digital News

Shockers Back on the Road to Battle Jayhawks

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Wichita State (11-12, 0-0 American) vs. Kansas (8-14, 0-3 Big 12)

Wednesday, March 30 | 3:00 pm | Lawrence, Kansas (Hoglund Ballpark)

TV: ESPN Plus | Radio: KFH 97.5 FM/1240 AM

LHP Jace Miner (0-0, 21.00) vs. RHP Jake Adams (1-0, 5.40)


SCENE SETTER: The Shockers return to the road for a midweek matchup at Kansas following an 11-game homestand at Eck Stadium that produced a 6-5 record, leaving the Shockers a game under .500 overall at 11-12. Wichita State was scheduled to battle former Missouri Valley Conference rival Missouri State on Tuesday night, but lightning and heavy rain in the Wichita area forced the game to be canceled. Wednesday will the second of two games against the Jayhawks in 2022, after the Shockers claimed a 7-5 win in 10 innings a week ago in Wichita courtesy of a walk-off home run from Garrett Kocis. Wichita State opened the season dropping their first six games, the worst start to a campaign since the 1953 season. The Shockers are coming off a 31-23 season a year ago, including an 18-13 mark in the American Athletic Conference that produced a third-place finish, WSU’s best since joining the AAC in 2017. Wichita State is seeking their first appearance in the NCAA tournament since the 2013 season, a regional bid that was later vacated by the NCAA.

SHOCKER BASEBALL ON THE RADIO AND ESPN PLUS: KFH 97.5 FM/1240 AM will once again serve as the radio home for all Wichita State baseball broadcasts in 2022. “The Voice of the Shockers” and Pizza Hut Shocker Sports Hall of Famer Mike Kennedy will have the call on Wednesday, with the pregame show beginning approximately 20 minutes prior to first pitch. All WSU home games at Eck Stadium in 2022 will air live on ESPN Plus (WatchESPN.com) with former Shocker All-American pitcher Shane Dennis handling the broadcasting duties. Live audio, in addition to live statistics, will be available for all games at GoShockers.com/listen and ShockerStats.com.

SERIES HISTORY: The Shockers and Jayhawks have met 83 times, with Wichita State holding a 49-34 lead in the all-time series. The two teams have not met in Lawrence since the 2018 season, a game the Shockers won 14-5. Wichita State has claimed the last six meetings in the series, and have not lost at home to the Jayhawks since the 2015 season. One week ago on March 23, Garrett Kocis launched a walk-off, two-run home run in the bottom of the tenth inning for a 7-5 WSU victory, the Shockers second straight walk-off win at Eck Stadium against the Jayhawks. From 2013-2016, Kansas won seven consecutive games in the series.

SCOUTING KANSAS: The Jayhawks enter the weekend with a record of 8-14 coming off a series sweep on the road at Oklahoma State. Kansas has played just one home game so far this season, a midweek loss at the hands of Missouri State on March 2. Otherwise, the Jayhawks have played weekend series in Corpus Christi (vs. Illinois), New Orleans, Minneapolis (Minnesota, Michigan State, Illinois), Greenville (Western Carolina, Michigan State), Terre Haute and Stillwater. The Jayhawks have lost five games in a row after their sweep at the hands of Oklahoma State, though Kansas dropped the first two games of the series by a combined three runs. Through 22 games, Kansas ranks last in the Big 12 in ERA (5.77) and batting average (.251), checking in sixth in fielding percentage (.970). The offense is led by the talented Maui Ahuna, who is hitting .434 with 14 extra-base hits to open the season. No other lineup regular is hitting better than .286, and no individual hitter has more than three home runs. The Jayhawks shuffled around the weekend rotation against Oklahoma State, as Daniel Hegarty made his first career start on Friday, bumping Cole Larsen and Ryan Vanderhei back to Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Longtime head coach Ritch Price is now in his 20th season at the helm of the Jayhawks, with an overall record of 569-537 in Lawrence. He is the all-time winningest coach in program history. Kansas is in search of their first NCAA regional appearance since the 2014 season, and their first super regional appearance under Price. The Jayhawks finished 30-27 a year ago, good for a tie for the 8th in the Big 12. They were picked last in the conference’s preseason poll in 2022.

STOP AND START: Though eventually canceled, Tuesday’s game against Missouri State was not abandoned for lack of effort. After weather delayed the original 6:00 pm start time 30 minutes, the game began with a Spencer Nivens leadoff single for Missouri State before more lightning was detected in the area, forcing a second delay of 40 minutes. Robert Cranz then struck out Will Duff following the second resumption of play at 7:15, but shortly thereafter umpires cleared the field yet again, and the game was ultimately canceled 15 minutes later.

NO MINER ACCOMPLISHMENT: Wednesday will be the first career start for freshman left-handed pitcher Jace Miner, who has previously appeared in five games as a reliever this season, totaling just three innings pitched. Miner becomes the eighth different Shocker pitcher to start a game in 2022, six of whom had never started a game at the Division-I level before this season.

BRILLIANT BYE: After beginning the season operating out of the bullpen, sophomore Cameron Bye has moved into the Sunday spot in the rotation and continued his near-flawless start to the 2022 season. With six more innings in the series finale against Creighton, the native of Euless, Texas has now opened the season with 21.2 innings without allowing an earned run (two unearned). Perhaps just as impressive, Bye has surrendered just nine hits for an opponent batting average of .122. He notched a career-best six strikeouts on Sunday to pick up his second win of the season.

RUNNING MAN: Sophomore outfielder Couper Cornblum has established himself as Wichita State’s primary baserunning threat. On a team that has stolen just 20 bases in 27 attempts, Cornblum is now 7-for-7 after setting a new career high on Sunday with three swipes against Creighton. For his career, the former Freshman All-American has been successful on 26 of 31 stolen base attempts.

CONTROL ARTIST: Even though he surrendered his first runs of the season on Sunday, Wichita State closer Connor Holden extended an impressive streak of command to open the season. The graduate transfer from Murray State has yet to issue a walk over the span of ten appearances covering 13.0 innings, while punching out 14.

ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END: Junior Sawyre Thornhill saw his season-opening 19-game hitting streak come to an end in Friday’s series opener against Creighton. However, Thornhill did manage to extend his on-base streak to 22 games over the weekend, drawing a walk on Friday and reaching base two times on both Saturday and Sunday.

LINEUP JUGGLING: Eric Wedge continues to tinker with the starting lineup in search of consistent production. Through 23 games, the Shockers have not used the same starters and batting order in consecutive games. Couper Cornblum has already started at seven different spots in the batting order, while three others players (Chuck Ingram, Xavier Casserilla and Ross Cadena) have starts at six different spots.

SHOCKERS IN THE RPI: Wichita State dropped to 130 in the latest RPI rankings following the series loss against Creighton, a 23-spot slip after entering the weekend at 107. Upcoming opponent Kansas enters play on Wednesday at 138. Wichita State has played Texas State (38), Oklahoma (45), Louisiana Tech (33), Oral Roberts (81) and Texas A&M (64) in the non-conference portion of the schedule, with three future matchups against Oklahoma State (24) on the way.

BIZARRE BASEBALL: Sunday’s series finale against New Mexico featured one of the strangest plays in recent memory. In the fifth inning with the bases loaded, Sawyre Thornhill skied a ball over the fence in center for an apparent grand slam. However, on his trip around the bases Thornhill passed Brock Rodden at first base, who then went to the dugout instead of touching home plate. After a lengthy review, the umpires determined Thornhill was out for passing the runner, and Rodden was out for going out of the baseline. The result was a two-run single and an inning-ending double play, putting the Shockers in front by the score of 12-0. 

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE: Eck Stadium, home of Tyler Field, has consistently been one of the toughest places for opponents to win in its storied history. The Shockers own an all-time home record of 1,272-381-2, including an 862-278-2 mark at Tyler Field (first season 1988). Since taking over as head coach in 2020, Eric Wedge has put together a 36-13 record at Eck, highlighted by a spotless 10-0 mark during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign.

KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY: Shocker coaches Eric Wedge, Mike Pelfrey, Mike Sirianni and Director of Operations Loren Hibbs all have ties to the WSU baseball program. Wedge powered the Shockers to a national championship as the starting catcher in 1989, earning Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year honors along the way. Pelfrey was an All-American starter who ranks second in program history in ERA (2.18) and strikeouts (366). Sirianni was a volunteer assistant coach for the Shockers in 2015 and 2016 before taking the head coaching position at Regis University. Hibbs helped WSU to the program’s first-ever CWS appearance in 1982, and still holds the NCAA record for single-season runs scored with 125.

ON DECK: The Shockers open American Athletic Conference play this weekend with three games on the road at Houston.



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