Tailgate Express Diamond Preview: Tech should handle the slumping Shockers
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Baseball season is here, and Tim Tadlock's Red Raiders will host four more weekend homestands against Big 12 foes Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma State, and Kansas.
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THE SHOCKERS HAVE FALLEN ON HARD TIMES AS OF LATE
After getting out to a great 7-0 start, Wichita State has run into some really tough times, losing 10 of their last 14 games in that stretch. That included a weekend in Baton Rouge where the Tigers got after the Shockers, particularly at the plate by hammering the WSU starting rotation.
Simply put: Wichita State has had a very hard time putting up runs against good pitchers while also getting hit on hard by good lineups. They've done fine against some other mid-major types, and they even stole one against Oklahoma 4-2, but LSU and Louisiana Tech gave it to WSU.
Wichita State does have one shining spot, however: Their bullpen. It's been a really, really good group of relievers who have been left to clean up some messes from outings by the starters in the last 10 to 15 games, but they've done about all they can to batten down the hatches.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
FRIDAY: RHP Davis Martin (3-1, 3.10 ERA) VS. RHP Willie Schwanke (2-2, 4.78 ERA)
After a solid start to the season, Wichita State's Schwanke has fallen on some tough times in his last three starts, particularly against LSU, as the Tigers walloped the veteran for 6 runs on 8 hits, including 2 doubles and a homer in just five innings of work. Schwanke is a player that lets his defense do the work for him, as he only has 11 strikeouts on the year in 26 innings of work, and he hasn't struck out more than 1 batter in each of his last three outings.
Davis Martin, on the other hand, appears to be rounding into form here as we head deeper into the season, as his start against Texas was arguably his best to date, and he'll see a similar lineup from Wichita State on Friday night.
SATURDAY: LHP Steven Gingery (4-0, 1.23 ERA) VS. LHP Cody Tyler (2-3, 5.14 ERA)
Tyler's stat line and story this season is very similar to that of Schwanke, except he's a lefty. Against LSU a few Saturdays back, the Tigers got after him in a similar fashion, going for 5 earned runs and 6 total runs on 10 hits, including a home run. Tyler only struck out 1 batter in his 5 innings of work against the Bayou Bengals. He's a contact pitcher just like Schwanke, too.
Right now, I'm simply not going to pick anyone to out-duel Steven Gingery if they aren't on a Florida, TCU, or LSU staff, and those would all be close picks. Gingery is one of the best starters in college baseball right now, as his changeup heavy approach has been nails.
SUNDAY: RHP Ryan Shetter (2-0, 3.29 ERA) VS. RHP Zach Lewis (1-1, 4.26 ERA)
Lewis is the eldest of the weekend trio as a senior, but he's had the quickest hook as well, going for more than four innings just once this year. LSU got after Lewis in just a three inning start of 9 hit, 6 run baseball where he struck out three but gave up two doubles in the process.
I'd expect Lewis to get a handful of innings before the Shockers go bullpen heavy on Sunday, which is common for the series finale on most weekends for most clubs without an elite rotation.
As for Tech, Shetter needs to settle in early, which he had a hard time doing against Texas in Austin last weekend. He finally found his groove, but he'd already been hit on a bit at that point.
Shetter has still been solid and has major strikeout potential against this Wichita State lineuip.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
OF Greyson Jenista - The sophomore has a team leading 6 doubles as well as a team best batting average of .313, and he's second on the team with 16 RBIs on the season. He'll likely hit in the three hole.
1B Alec Brohm - Brohm has some pop to his bat as well, as he's second on the team with 5 doubles, has a team high tying 2 home runs, has an OB of .363, and is batting .275 overall. He'll likely be the cleanup man for Wichita State.
3B Luke Ritter - Ritter has had the most bang at the plate of any Shocker so far this season, knocking in 3 doubles, 1 triple, and 2 homers so far. He's leading the team in both slugging and on base percentage with .448 and .419 in both categories respectively. However, he's also struck out 18 times so far this season. He'll bat in the two hole for WSU.
RHP Chandler Sanburn - The junior is off to a great start out of the bullpen, as he hasn't allowed a single extra base hit 7 appearances with 12.1 innings of work so far. He doesn't strike out many guys, but he'll pound the strikezone and lets his defense work for him. He's been really, really good.
RHP Landon Holifield - Through 10 appearances and 11 innings of work from the pen, Holifield has been nothing short of lockdown. He has a 0.82 ERA, opponents are only hitting .086 against him, and he's struck out 18. However, he can get a bit erratic, as he's also walked 11.
I think the Red Raiders will overpower this Wichita State team, both at the plate and on the mound, this weekend. The Shockers have very little power at the plate with only a handful of home runs and only two players batting at or above .300, and they haven't exactly been seeing some stellar pitching staffs.
Add to that the fact that LSU absolutely crushed the WSU starting rotation, and I just think Tech should go in and handle business this weekend unless they're asleep at the wheel.
If the Shockers make it interesting, it will be because of their really solid relief pitching staff, timely hitting, and some gaffs from Red Raider fielders or pitchers.
The Red Raiders will also need to make sure to take care of business at the plate in the first few innings of contests before WSU can move on to the bullpen.
Tech sweeps Wichita State 3-0.