Photo via Grant Cohen, Author
Wichita State’s NCAA tournament hopes depend largely on the outcome of the American Athletic Conference tournament.
Dropping to 44 in the RPI and earning the no. 7 seed in the conference tournament, the Shockers need to make a deep run or earn the automatic bid by winning the conference tournament in order to earn an NCAA tournament bid.
“We still control our own destiny,” junior outfielder and first baseman Greyson Jenista said. “You never know what’s going to happen once you get into that tournament. If we can ball games, we can make Regionals and all you need is a chance. You never know.”
The Shockers finished the regular season 34-19-1 after winning their second conference series of the season at Memphis. Although Wichita State’s resume contains seven wins over Top 50 RPI opponents, a 9-14-1 record in conference play and three losses to teams with an RPI of 128 or worse is hard to ignore.
College Sports Madness has Wichita State playing UCLA in the Lubbock Regional in their May 14th bracket, but that was before the Shockers lost to K-State (128 RPI) and Memphis (190 RPI).
Good news for the Shockers is that not only is the power of junior Alec Bohm’s bat helped lift the offense, but Jenista has improved to give the Shockers an added lift. After having his batting average fall below .300, Jenista hit .413 in Wichita State’s final seven games of the season to boost his average back up to .313.
“I just went back and watched film back when I was a sophomore and a freshman,” Jenista said. “I wanted to go back to what I do best. I’m just trying to see the ball and get on base, whether it’s a walk, hit in the head, whatever it is I need to get on. Most of the time when I get on, we score.”
Wichita State opens play in the American tournament with USF on Wednesday, with Cincinnati and UConn being in the same side of the bracket as the Shockers before reaching the conference championship. The Shockers split the series with USF, having the final game end in a tie because of the conference’s travel rule where all games must conclude by 3 p.m. for Sunday games.
USF had two runners in scoring position in the top of the 11th before a Chandler Sanburn strikeout retired the side and the clock struck 3 p.m, where the Shockers did not have an opportunity to bat in that half-inning.
“We went to East Carolina and stayed until Monday so we didn’t have to do these things,” Wichita State coach Todd Butler said. “We played Houston, flew out Monday and I think it’s something that our league needs to look into where we can play the game like everybody else in college baseball. We ended up with a tie, not happy with it.”
The Shockers won the first game of the USF series in eight innings 17-2 against MLB Draft prospect Shane McClanahan. After USF came back in the second game to tie the series, the Bulls held a 9-5 in the sixth inning. Wichita State stormed back to tie the game and force extra innings before the conference curfew rule.
The Shockers still hold that taken away chance for a quality resume win in the back of their minds.
“I definitely felt like we had momentum to win that game there in that last inning,” junior Alec Bohm said. “They got an extra chance and we didn’t. It’s not fair, but it is what it is. I think we had a good chance to win there in that last inning.”