Wichita State head coach Todd Butler gives Luke Ritter a fist bump after the Shockers’ sweep over Furman on Sunday. Featured Photo by Grant Cohen
WICHITA, Kan. – Wichita State’s preseason hype was largely due to having preseason All-Americans and projected Major League draft picks Alec Bohm and Greyson Jenista.
In the Shockers’ series against Furman, it was the other batters and the pitching staff that headlined the weekend.
With 24 out of 28 RBI coming from players other than Bohm or Jenista and allowing just five Furman runs, the Shockers claimed their fourth non-conference sweep and moved their record to 17-4.
“We have a good group of players. The team comes first,” Wichita State head coach Todd Butler said. “It’s not one player or two players. It’s a combination of everyone and they know that. With Jenista being out and [junior outfielder Dayton] Dugas being hurt right now, we’ll need to get those guys healthy for [the next] weekend series.”
In Friday’s game, sophomore pitcher Codi Heuer came up with a career-high 11 strikeouts in six innings that allowed the Shockers to ease to an 11-1 win. Senior catcher Gunnar Troutwine contributed to the weekend’s high scoring affairs, hitting two out of his three season home runs in the weekend’s games.
Freshman Paxton Wallace and junior Jordan Boyer also managed to add to the home run category, with Wallace hitting his first home run of the season on Saturday. Because Wallace has been batting behind Jenista and Bohm, he said that allows him to relax to get quality at-bats.
Hitting just under .300, batting behind Bohm and Jenista has allowed Wallace to follow the example the preseason All-American’s set.
“They [get hits], so you want to do it,” Wallace said. “It really motivates me to play at my best because I want play up to their potential as well. I want to help the team out as much as I can.”
With Jenista out on Sunday with an ankle injury, the Shockers’ offense only managed to come up with three runs. Their lead, however, was kept in check for the majority of the game thanks to the collective effort from the pitching staff.
Getting the nod for his first start of the season, sophomore Tommy Barnhouse delivered a career-high eight strikeouts while only allowing two hits. Wichita State’s four relievers did not allow a single hit to the final 17 Furman batters faced and the pitching staff collectively forced the Paladins to hit under .100 on Sunday.
While the Wichita State pitching staff had an earned run average of 4.75, that ERA has improved to 3.13 this season. Barnhouse credited pitching coach Mike Steele for not only helping get the mentality right for the pitching staff, but also giving them confidence that can be translated on the mound.
“He always tells us that we’re a really good pitching staff and that we need to act like it and play like it. That’s what we’ve been doing. We’re acting like we’re really good, which we are really good. It carries over to the mound with our confidence and everything works out.”
Wichita State plays their first American Athletic Conference series against East Carolina starting on Thursday after a matchup at Central Arkansas on Tuesday. The Shockers prepare for a significant conference upgrade, moving to a conference where it did failed to reach the top 10 in conference RPI to a conference that finished in fourth in 2017.
“We’re all excited to start playing the American teams,” Barnhouse said. “It should be a lot more blood-pumping, a lot more fans and it’s more exciting baseball overall. I think we’re ready for it.”