It’s not uncommon for coaches to say they don’t know what to expect at the beginning of a fresh season, but for Wichita State first-year baseball coach Eric Wedge, it’s not just coachspeak.
Wedge has two decades of experience as a highly decorated manager and talent evaluator at the Major League Baseball ranks. What the former Shocker has none of is college coaching experience, a fact that he’s keeping in mind as WSU heads to Natchitoches, Louisiana for a three-game series at Northwestern State starting with Friday’s 6:30 p.m. season opener.
“Quite frankly, I’ve never seen any real college baseball game as a head coach,” Wedge said. “So I can’t really speak on (expectations) until we see how we match up and see how we respond when we start playing.
“One thing I can say is that these guys have gotten consistently better all the way through the spring and that’s what we need to keep doing. They care about the right things and they’re working hard, so now it’s time to see how that matches up.”
But one thing that is known entering the season is how popular Wedge has been with the returning players, none of which he recruited.
“Everyone will run through a wall for Eric Wedge,” WSU junior catcher Ross Cadena said. “He’s been there and done that and we’re so excited to start playing for him. We’re ready. Everyone is bought in.”
Highly touted junior college transfer Jake Hamilton, a 6-foot-4 right-hander, will get the first start of the season for the Shockers, followed by junior Liam Eddy on Saturday and senior Preston Snavely on Sunday.
In the lineup, WSU will have many familiar faces from last year. Seniors Alex Jackson (third base) and Jacob Katzfey (left field) will be in the opening lineup, as will juniors Cadena (catcher), Garrett Kocis (first base) and Hunter Gibson (right field) and sophomore Jack Sigrist (second base). Wedge said he plans to start three freshmen in Derek Shaver (shortstop), Cade Clemons (center field) and Couper Cornblum (designated hitter).
WSU will be without two injured starters for the opening series: junior infielder Paxton Wallace (back) and sophomore outfielder David VanVooren (wrist). Wedge said that Wallace, the team’s top returning hitter, will remain in Wichita this weekend and try to rehabilitate in time for the home-opening series against Texas Southern on Feb. 21-23 at Eck Stadium.
“I just don’t think we’re going to know what to expect until they get out there and play between the white lines,” Wedge said. “Then we’ll be able to see and make some adjustments.”
Northwestern State finished 30-25 last season and seventh in the Southland Conference. The Demons return five starters from 2019 and are picked to finish fifth this year in the Southland. They finished No. 121 in the final RPI, while WSU finished No. 83.
While Wedge might not know how the Shockers match up with other teams, as a talent evaluator, he has said that he has been pleased with WSU’s growth through the winter and spring.
“I really like their focus and the way they are working hard,” Wedge said. “They’re still hungry to learn and that’s something that’s been consistent with them. From Day 1, these guys have been hungry to learn. We still have to get a lot better, but that’s not something that happens overnight. These guys are putting in the work.”
Wedge declined to put any expectations for his first season, like proving wrong the preseason prediction by the league coaches that the Shockers will finish last in the American Athletic Conference this season.
“What I want them to do is go out there and compete and be the best version of themselves, individually and collectively,” Wedge said. “The results will take care of themselves. We want to pay attention and be prepared and go out there and compete and trust the work that they’ve done. If they can do that, then the rest will take care of itself. We’ll have our good days and our bad days, but regardless of the situation, we’re going to work hard.”
Wichita State baseball schedule
14—at Northwestern State, 6:30; 15—at Northwestern State, 2; 16—at Northwestern State, 1; 21—Texas Southern, 3; 22—Texas Southern, 1; 23—Texas Southern, 1; 25—Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 3; 26—Kansas State, 3; 28—vs. Hofstra^; 29—vs. Hofstra^.
^ = at Nevada tournament in Reno, Nev.
1—at Nevada^; 3—Air Force, 3; 4—Air Force, 2; 6—Louisiana Tech, 3; 7—Louisiana Tech, 1; 8—Louisiana Tech, Noon; 13—Nebraska, 3; 14—Nebraska, Noon and 3; 15—Nebraska, 1; 17—Oral Roberts, 3; 20—at Houston, 6:30; 21—at Houston, 6:30; 22—at Houston, 1; 24—at Oklahoma State, 6; 27—Tulane, 6; 28—Tulane, 2; 29—Tulane, 11 a.m.
3—at Central Florida, 5; 4—at Central Florida, 5; 5—at Central Florida, Noon; 7—Oklahoma State, 6; 9—at Creighton, 6:30; 10—at Creighton, 6:30; 11—at Creighton, 1; 14—at Oklahoma, 6:30; 17—Cincinnati, 6; 18—Cincinnati, 2; 19—Cincinnati, 1; 21—at Kansas State, 6; 24—South Florida, 6; 25—South Florida, 2; 26—South Florida, 1; 28—Oklahoma, 6; 29—at Kansas, 6.
1—at East Carolina, 5:30; 2—at East Carolina, 3; 3—at East Carolina, Noon; 6—Kansas, 6; 8—Connecticut, 6; 9—Connecticut, 2; 10—Connecticut, Noon; 12—at Oral Roberts, 6; 14—at Memphis, 6; 15—at Memphis, 6; 16—at Memphis, 1; 19-24—at American Athletic Conference tournament in Clearwater, Fla.
Wichita State baseball roster
|2||Alex Jackson||INF||5-10||183||L/R||Sr.||Double Oak, Texas|
|3||Cooper Elliot||INF||6-1||163||L/R||Fr.||Andover, Kan.|
|4||Couper Cornblum||INF||5-11||174||R/R||Fr.||Woodway, Texas|
|6||Jack Sigrist||INF||5-11||183||R/R||So.||Plano, Texas|
|7||Blake Marsh||INF||6-1||200||L/L||Fr.||Coppell, Texas|
|8||Jacob Katzfey||OF||6-1||194||L/L||Sr.||Lee’s Summit, Mo.|
|11||Ross Cadena||C||5-8||194||R/R||Jr.||Southlake, Texas|
|12||Ryan Stuempfig||RHP||6-3||208||R/R||So.||Flower Mound, Texas|
|13||Hunter Gibson||OF||6-2||224||L/R||Jr.||Oologah, Okla.|
|14||David VanVooren||OF||6-0||191||R/R||So.||Bedford, Texas|
|15||Paxton Wallace||INF||6-0||215||R/R||Jr.||Greenbrier, Ark.|
|16||Chris Diehl||C||5-11||196||R/R||Sr.||Fort Collins, Colo.|
|17||Aaron Haase||RHP||5-8||187||R/R||So.||Amarillo, Texas|
|18||Calvin Marley||RHP||6-3||219||R/R||So.||Fort Collins, Colo.|
|19||Derek Shaver||3B||6-3||207||R/R||Fr.||Grand Junction, Colo.|
|21||Kyle Wilson||RHP||6-2||178||R/R||Fr.||Fort Worth, Texas|
|23||Trevor Munsch||LHP||6-4||165||L/L||Jr.||Lawrence, Kan.|
|25||Josh Killeen||C||5-10||178||R/R||Fr.||San Antonio, Texas|
|26||Liam Eddy||RHP||6-3||194||R/R||Jr.||Brighton, Colo.|
|27||Jake Hamilton||RHP||6-4||202||R/R||Jr.||Asher, Okla.|
|28||Preston Snavely||RHP||6-5||226||R/R||Sr.||Fort Collins, Colo.|
|29||Garrett Kocis||1B||6-4||220||L/R||Jr.||Omaha, Neb.|
|31||Cade Clemons||INF||6-2||188||R/R||Fr.||Lee’s Summit, Mo.|
|32||Jacob Lindemann||RHP||6-3||214||R/R||Jr.||Burlington, Wis.|
|33||Tommy Barnhouse||RHP||6-1||193||R/R||Sr.||Lansing, Kan.|
|35||Beau Leonards||LHP||6-2||193||L/L||Fr.||Plano, Texas|
|36||Connery Peters||RHP||6-5||228||R/R||So.||Crowley, Texas|
|38||Foster Gifford||RHP||6-3||204||R/R||Jr.||Brighton, Colo.|
|39||Creighton Hansen||RHP||6-2||193||R/R||Fr.||Grapevine, Texas|
|40||Connor Oliver||LHP||6-1||170||L/L||Fr.||Oak Forest, Ill.|
|43||Aaron Bechtel||RHP||5-11||187||R/R||Jr.||Wichita, Kan.|