Wichita State managed to avoid the sweep and get a win over UConn, who ranks in the top 20 RPI, on Sunday. Photo by Grant Cohen.
WICHITA, Kan.— Instead of playing the typical second game of a weekend series on Saturday, Wichita State spent the day regrouping.
After UConn combined for 25 hits for a pair of wins on Friday, Wichita State spent the scheduled day off due to inclement weather practicing and had a team meeting to figure out what went wrong.
Saturday paid off for Wichita State, as the Shockers hit .421 that allowed them to dominate the Huskies 15-7 on Sunday despite giving up 12 hits to UConn.
“No one is freaking out. There’s no panic out there,” junior outfielder Travis Young said. “It’s two games that were lost and we had to respond from that and that’s what [Sunday’s] goal was, to go out there and respond from it and not let it happen again.”
The Shockers started their Saturday with a team meeting to “set guys straight” and was followed by a light practice. After their team meeting and practice, Wichita State returned to dominance in the final game of the series.
Wichita State had four batters that obtained at least two or more hits, with those batters driving in 11 out of 15 runs for the Shockers. UConn pulled within one run in the top of the seventh inning, but a six-run outing by Wichita State a half-inning later that opened the gap out to a seven-run lead.
“I think our mentality changed [after Saturday],” Young said. “We’re out here playing a game. We’re supposed to have fun. We need to come out here knowing we’re going to get the job and get a win. That was our mentality [Sunday] to go out knowing that we’re good enough to play and that’s how we played.”
Wichita State head coach Todd Butler made a significant lineup change that affected the bats and defense for the Shockers. Butler moved junior outfielder Greyson Jenista from center field to first base and placed him fifth in the batting order. Both moves were firsts for Jenista this season.
Butler then inserted Young to play center and bat ninth in the order, a move that made the difference for Wichita State. While Jenista went 3-for-4 with two RBI, Young had a career-high of four hits. Young was a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate, driving in four Shocker runs in the process.
“[Young’s] toughness as a player is off the charts,” Butler said. “He has that football mentality coming from [High School in Derby, Kansas]. His approach today was really good. He was soft with his stride, stayed in the zone, hit the ball hard every time he went up there.”
Even though UConn came up short on Sunday, the two wins over the Shockers, who rank 10th in the RPI, are going to be huge in the NCAA Tournament selection committee’s eyes. The Huskies missed the tournament 2017 after winning the American Athletic Conference title and obtaining the automatic bid in 2016. UConn is 4-0 against teams in the top-50 RPI and have four more opportunities to obtain wins in that category.
Playing 18 out of their first 19 non-conference on the road, UConn head coach Jim Penders said that playing on the road so much has made his program “comfortable” away from their home.
“Competitively, we’re more comfortable with our routine on the road,” Penders said. “Our routine at home is so foreign… there’s more of a consistent routine because we just do it more. The facilities that we get to play in on the road are superior, so you know that there’s going to be good bounces. You know [the balls] are going to play true.”
Wichita State (24-9, 4-5) takes on Central Arkansas and Kansas mid week at home before traveling to Houston for a three-game conference series.