With two projected 2018 Major League Baseball Draft picks and eight batters returning to the Wichita State lineup, the Shockers’ veteran team is not letting the newcomers fall behind in practice.
Newcomers can be seen in Eck Stadium working on fielding ground balls outside of Wichita State’s scheduled workout times, a habit that is influenced by upperclassmen.
“They want [the extra work],” sophomore infielder Alex Jackson said. “They ask us, ‘hey can you hit us ground balls?’; ‘Hey, what do I have to do in this situation?’ They’re all for the work. We definitely push them to a certain degree.”
The newcomers especially look up to last season’s batting leader Greyson Jenista, who hit .310 this past summer with the Cotuit (Mass.) Kettleers on his way to earning MVP of the Cape Cod League. Jenista has followed the same habits he did as a freshman: staying past team scheduled workouts for individual improvement.
Instead of just himself hitting in the cage, Jenista is followed by a handful of newcomers after practice. When Jenista is not individually working on his game, he is hitting ground balls and being a verbal leader to the younger players.
“Greyson is a great example of [putting in more work],” redshirt freshman infielder Maison Stites said. “He’s always one of the last ones to leave; one of the first ones here. He’s a great example of that to give us [newcomers] extra motivation to keep practicing and keep working hard.”
Wichita State’s newcomers will get their first bit of game action under their belts this upcoming weekend, playing in the Shockers’ annual Fall World Series. Captains from two teams draft their teammates, splitting them up into two teams for a three-game series.
16 players from Wichita State’s roster get their first taste of college baseball starting on Thursday.
“Live at-bats are the best thing for any new player to get adjusted to the next level,” Stiles said. “This is just more game-like. There’s going to be fans here, family here, so it’s a great practice and great transition for all the newcomers.”
Veteran experience and high-powered offense is going to be the Shockers’ focal points for the upcoming season, returning five players that hit .264 or better from last season. Wichita State will face tougher competition in their inaugural season in the American Athletic Conference.
The American sent three teams to the NCAA Tournament last season and last place East Carolina was one win away from earning the automatic bid to the dance by falling 6-0 to Houston in the conference tournament championship game.
Head coach Todd Butler is also known for putting together one of the strongest non-conference schedules in Division I baseball, taking the Shockers to road series’ against no. 6 LSU, no. 13 Oklahoma, and playing a three-game home series against no. 3 Texas Tech. While the Shockers’ schedule is still to be determined, Wichita State will look to use this Fall World Series as a practice series in preparation for the tougher conference competition as well as the anticipated rigorous non-conference schedule, which so far includes a three-game series at Creighton March 16-18th according to the Bluejays’ athletic website.
“We’ve always played the best talent, so it’ll be a carry over from that,” junior outfielder Dayton Dugas said. “We’re going to have to hook it up every night. There’s not going to be that guy that throws 75, 80 miles per hour that can beat you because he’s bad. That’s going to be a more of a focused deal and everyone is going to have to be locked in.”