Wichita State BSB: Shockers Begin Season at Louisiana Tech

Game 1: Wichita State (0-0, 0-0 American) at Louisiana Tech (0-0, 0-0 C-USA)
Friday, February 18 | 6:00 pm | Ruston, La. (Pat Patterson Park)
TV: CUSA.tv | Radio: KFH 97.5 FM/1240 AM

Game 2: Wichita State at Louisiana Tech 
Saturday, February 19 | 2:00 pm | Ruston, La. (Pat Patterson Park)
TV: CUSA.tv | Radio: KFH 97.5 FM/1240 AM

Game 3: Wichita State at Louisiana Tech
Sunday, February 20 | 1:00 pm | Ruston, La. (Pat Patterson Park)
TV: CUSA.tv | Radio: KFH 97.5 FM/1240 AM

SCENE SETTER: Wichita State opens the 2022 season with 12 games away from home, beginning with a three-game series at 2021 regional host Louisiana Tech. 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. Head Coach Eric Wedge returns for his third season at the helm, going 13-2 in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign for a combined two-season mark of 44-25. The Shockers are 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. Former Shocker All-American pitcher Shane Dennis has the call for all three games in Ruston, with “The Voice of the Shockers” and Pizza Hut Shocker Sports Hall of Famer Mike Kennedy joining the team later in the season following the conclusion of the men’s basketball season. Pregame show begins approximately 20 minutes prior to first pitch. All WSU home games will air live on ESPN Plus (WatchESPN.com) with Dennis on the call. 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 Bulldogs have met six previous times, splitting the all-time series three games apiece. Louisiana Tech swept a three-game series in Ruston in 2017, including a wild 12-10 series finale in which the Bulldogs scored six times in the bottom of the eighth to overcome a 7-6 deficit. The Shockers got their revenge in 2020, sweeping three games at Eck Stadium by scores of 6-2, 5-3, and 10-9. In the series finale, Louisiana Tech erased an 8-0 second inning deficit to take a 9-8 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but an RBI single from Ross Cadena and a Derek Shaver sacrifice fly gave the Shockers a walk-off victory.

SHOCKER NOTES: Wichita State returns 16 letterwinners and seven starters from last season’s squad, led by preseason all-conference first baseman Garrett Kocis and 2021 Freshman All-American starter Jace Kaminska. Stalwart catcher Ross Cadena enters 2022 with 130 career starts, and outfielders Couper CornblumChuck Ingram and Seth Stroh all return for their sophomore campaigns after making a combined 102 starts a year ago. Junior infielder Jack Sigrist is the team’s leading returning hitter after producing a .321/.390/.470 slash line in 2021. The Shockers lose three First Team all-conference selections;  outfielder Corrigan Bartlett, reliever Aaron Haase, and third baseman Paxton Wallace. On the mound, starting pitchers Liam Eddy and Preston Snavely both graduated after making 29 combined starts, leaving the Shockers with just 19 returning starts on the 2022 roster (Kaminska 10, Spencer Hynes 9). Six Division-1 transfers bolster the roster, including expected closer Conner Holden from Murray State.

SCOUTING LOUISIANA TECH: The Bulldogs are coming off a 42-20 season in 2021, including a program-best 22-8 mark in Conference USA play to top the West Division. Louisiana Tech hosted a regional for the first time in school history, ultimately falling to eventual CWS participant North Carolina State in game four. The Bulldogs return several key pieces from last season, including shortstop Taylor Young, the reigning C-USA Defensive Player of the Year who also hit .331. Centerfielder Cole McConnell is the team’s leading returning hitter at .347, while corner outfielder Philip Matulia posted a .311 average with eight home runs. As a team, Louisiana Tech hit .306 with 76 homers in 62 games last season. The Bulldogs will be tasked with replacing two lineup mainstays, as Hunter Wells and Parker Bates each registered an OPS of better than 1.000 a season ago. On the mound, Louisiana Tech is led by preseason All-American Jonathan Fincher, who went 8-3 with a 3.05 ERA and only 23 walks in 100.1 innings. Hard-throwing right-hander (cont.) Ryan Jennings is slotted as the Saturday starter, while veteran righty Kyle Crigger solidifies the bullpen, notching five saves with a 3.47 ERA a season ago. The Bulldogs play their home games at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park, which was completely rebuilt after an EF-3 tornado decimated the facility on April 25, 2019. Known affectionately as the “Love Shack”, Pat Patterson Park has a capacity of 2,100, including 1,322 permanent seats. Head Coach Lane Burroughs enters his sixth season at the helm, earning a contract extension through 2026 at the conclusion of the 2021 campaign. Former Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard was promoted to Associate Head Coach over the offseason.

TRANSFER TRACKER: The Shockers added 12 transfers to the 2022 roster, including six from Division-I programs. RHP Connor Holden (Murray State),  LHP Austin Wallace (Texas), LHP Adam Ketelsen (Iowa), INF Will Carpenter (Penn State), RHP Matt Boyer (Saint Louis) and RHP Grayson Jones (James Madison) all make their way to Wichita for 2022.

LEANING ON THE LONE STAR STATE: 14 Shockers on the roster hail from Texas, easily the most of any one state. Oklahoma is next closest with nine, then four from Kansas. The Texans will have plenty of opportunities to shine in front of friends and family, as Wichita State plays ten games in the state of Texas in 2022 (one game in Arlington, three in Corpus Christi, three in Frisco, three in Houston).

POWER RANKINGS: The Shockers were well represented on D1Baseball’s Position Power Rankings. First baseman Garrett Kocis (#16), second baseman Jack Sigrist (#28), starting pitcher Jace Kaminska (#38), catcher Ross Cadena (#46) and relief pitcher Connor Holden (#67) were all recognized as top-100 players at their position.

MR. ALL-AMERICAN: RHP Jace Kaminska was selected to five different Freshman All-American teams after a dominant debut season in 2021. The native of Caney, Kan. went 8-1 with a 2.32 ERA, earning First Team All-Conference and AAC Newcomer Pitcher of the Year honors. He was named a 2022 Second Team Preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball in late December.

POLL POSITION: The Shockers were picked fourth in the American Athletic Conference preseason poll, the highest preseason projection for Wichita State since joining the AAC in 2017. First baseman Garrett Kocis and RHP Jace Kaminska were both selected to the AAC Preseason All-Conference Team.

ON THE SCHEDULE: Wichita State will battle seven non-conference opponents who finished 2021 with a top-100 RPI, highlighted by three games apiece against Oklahoma State (#16) and Louisiana Tech (#27). The Shockers play three games against Oklahoma State for the first time in program history, with standard home-and-home midweek series against Kansas, Kansas State, and Oklahoma. Former Missouri Valley Conference foes Missouri State and Creighton also travel to Eck Stadium for non-conference matchups.

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY: Shocker coaches Eric WedgeMike PelfreyMike 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 in Denver. Hibbs helped WSU to the program’s first-ever College World Series appearance in 1982, and still holds the NCAA record for single-season runs scored with 125.

SUPPLEMENTING THE STAFF: The Shockers added volunteer assistant coach Conor Behrens (pronounced BEAR-enns) to the staff in late January after previous volunteer Easton Herring accepted a position with the Virginia Tech softball program. Behrens comes to Wichita after stops at Point Loma Nazarene and Central Missouri, where he helped the Mules to a national runner-up finish in 2021.

GLOVE LOVE: Shortstop Andrew Stewart committed just two errors in 178 chances last season, good for a .989 fielding percentage. Had he recorded 22 more chances to qualify for the program record book, it would have been the best fielding percentage by a Shocker shortstop in WSU history.

CARRYING A BIG STICK: First baseman Garrett Kocis returns to the middle of the WSU order after an impressive 2021 campaign. The senior was leading the nation in home runs before injuring his wrist against Houston on April 10. From February 27-March 20, he went 18-for-43 (.419) with nine home runs and 24 RBI in just 11 games. His .654 slugging percentage leads all AAC returners.

TWO-WAY TALENT: Freshman Payton Tolle is expected to pitch and hit in 2022, beginning the season as WSU’s Saturday starter while also getting opportunities at first base and designated hitter. Sophomore Derek Shaver made three relief appearances and had 17 at-bats in 2021, but has moved full-time to pitching this season.

ON DECK: The Shockers continue their season-opening 12-game road trip with a midweek contest at Oklahoma on February 22, before heading to Globe Life Field in Arlington to battle Texas State on February 23.