Wichita State (21-34, 9-15 American) vs. Houston (34-22, 13-11 American)
Tuesday May 24 | First pitch 47 minutes into Game 3, which begins at 3:00 p.m. CT | Clearwater, Florida (BayCare Ballpark)
Television: ESPN+ | Radio: KFH 97.5FM/1240AM
HPL Caden Favors (1-1, 2.22) v RHP Ben Sears (6-3, 2.95)
SCENE SETTING: Wichita State opens the American Athletic Conference championship Tuesday night against Houston at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Fla. The Shockers are the number six seed in the group, paired with the third-seeded Cougars in the first round. WSU plays the final game of the day on Tuesday, with first pitching time scheduled for 47 minutes after the end of Game 3, which begins at 4:00 p.m. ET. The Shockers lost two of three games over the weekend in South Florida, losing Thursday before splitting Saturday. After losing 16 of 17 games from March 25 to April 29, WSU righted the ship with an 8-6 record in the final two weeks of the regular season, highlighted by an 18-0 victory over the ‘Oklahoma ranked No. 24 over the past midweek. campaign game. 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. Wichita State is seeking its first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2013 season, a regional bid that was later canceled by the NCAA.
SHOCKER BASEBALL ON RADIO AND ESPN PLUS: KFH 97.5 FM / 1240 AM will once again serve as the primary radio for all Wichita State baseball broadcasts in 2022. “The Voice of the Shockers” and Pizza Hut Shocker Sports Hall of Famer mike kennedy will take the call to the U.S. Championship in Track and Field, with the pre-game show starting about 20 minutes before the first pitch. All Championship games will be shown on ESPN+, with analyst Garrett Walvoord and play-by-play Jeff Brightwell on the call. Live audio, in addition to live stats, will be available for all games at GoShockers.com/listen and ShockerStats.com.
SERIES HISTORY: The Shockers and Cougars have met 58 times, with Houston holding a 36-22 lead in the all-time series. Since Wichita State restarted the baseball program in 1978, the Cougars have led the series 15-14. Houston has won two of three games in each of two regular season series in 2022, winning four of six overall. The two teams have met a record nine times during the 2021 season, including once at the American Athletic Conference tournament in Clearwater. After losing Game 1 of the season series to the Cougars, the Shockers went on to eight straight wins, including a dominating four-game series in Wichita in which WSU beat Houston 40-6. The Shockers and Cougars also played the first-ever game at Riverfront Stadium in downtown Wichita, a 10-1 victory on April 10 in front of 7,509 fans. Before Wichita State’s eight-game winning streak, the Cougars won seven in a row, including a three-game sweep at Schroeder Park in 2018.
HOUSTON SCOUTING: The Cougars bring a 34-22 overall record into play Tuesday, including a 13-11 mark in American Athletic Conference play. The Cougars have lost six consecutive games entering the AAC Championship. Houston played its best baseball at the friendly Schroeder Park compound, going 22-10 at home and 11-9 away from Houston. Closer Ben Sears will make his first start of the year after racking up 12 saves during the regular season. Sears worked a 4.1 inning season last against the Shockers on May 8. The Cougars have a balanced offensive lineup that has eight different regulars hitting .280 or better, highlighted by Kansas transfer Anthony Tulimero and his .324 average. Head coach Todd Whitting returns for his 12th season in charge of the Cougars, with a 379-285-1 record since taking over as head coach. The former TCU assistant led Houston to three US regular season titles and two conference tournament championships. The Cougars were selected seventh in the 2022 preseason U.S. poll, after going 19-34 (7-21) a season ago.
BOMB SQUAD: After hitting two more homers in the series at South Florida, the Shockers have now thrown 65 longballs on the season, third in the conference behind Cincinnati and UCF. It’s the most BBCOR-era home runs for Wichita State, and the most in a season since the 2004 Shockers hit 78. Six different Wichita State hitters have drawn it six or more, led by by Brock Rodden 16.
CLEAN IT: The Shockers defense is currently building its best streak of the season, committing just one error in the last 65 innings dating back to the series finale against Houston. One of the biggest contributing factors has been the consistency of the starting lineup, as the Shockers have used the same starters at six defensive positions in each of the past ten games.
GOOD FAVORS: Since taking over as lead fly-half for Wichita State, the left-handed pitcher Caden Favors put up an incredible streak of performances. The sophomore southpaw is currently on a 15.1 scoreless streak, allowing just seven hits over five appearances with 14 strikeouts and just three walks. All seven hits allowed were singles. The dominating stretch lowered the favor season ERA from 3.24 to 2.22.
ALL-CONFERENCE: Three Shockers were named to the American Athletic Conference first team on Monday, as right-handed pitchers Goodbye Cameronoutfielder chuck ingram and second baseman Brock Rodden all received honors for outstanding regular seasons. Rodden was also named Conference Newcomer Player of the Year. It’s the first All-Conference honors for each of the sophomore trios in their young Shocker careers.
FEAST OR FAMINE: No player in the Shocker position has experienced more statistical variance this season than the outfielder Seth Stroh, who finished the regular season with a solid .252/.336/.495 slant line, good for a .831 OPS that is fifth-best on the team. However, Stroh has retired 47 of his 103 at-bats this season (46%), by far the highest rate at the club. When not at bat, second is 26 for 56, an incredible .464 batting average on balls in play. 13 of his 26 hits have gone for extra bases.
AWAKENING OF EXPECTATION: One of the main culprits in Wichita State’s losing streak was an offense that averaged just 3.55 points per game during an 18-game streak from March 25-April 22. The Shockers reduced .222/.318/.349 as a team. during stretching. Starting April 19 against Oklahoma, the Shocker Bats produced a .311/.394/.511 slash line over the next 19 games, averaging 7.63 points per game.
RODDEN RAKE: The catalyst for Wichita State’s offensive resurgence was second baseman Brock Rodden, who has reduced .432 / .511 / .851 over the last 19 games with nine homers. Perhaps most impressively, Rodden batted just five times in 74 at-bats while drawing 14 walks. The hitter now has 16 homers on the season, most since future first-rounder Alec Bohm also threw 16 in 2018.
BOOMER BLOW: Monday’s 18-0 victory over No. 24 Oklahoma was a significant win in the Wichita State program’s record books. The victory represented the largest margin of victory in series history against Oklahoma, as well as the most points the Shockers had ever scored in a game against the Sooners. It was the first shutout for a Wichita State-ranked team since March 12, 2011, when the Shockers shut out No. 24 Tulane 1-0. The Shockers set a new season high with 18 hits, five homers and 35 total bases. On the mound, the Shockers went no-hitter for 7.2 innings before a Kendall Pettis brace. In total, the combination of Caden Favors, Jace Miner and Robert Cranz allowed only four base runners on the night, none of whom reached third base.
I JUST WANTED TO TAKE ANOTHER LOOK: Wichita State scored 25 runs this season in the first inning, hitting .218 as a team on just 17 extra hits. The second time in order against an opposing starter proved statistically significant, as the Shockers hit .309 and .321 in the third and fourth innings, respectively. Wichita State has hit 15 4th-inning homers this season, most of them in a single frame.
STAT PADDING: First-year infielder Xavier Casserille entered last Saturday’s game against Tulane with four home runs and 11 RBIs in 45 games. After starting the day 0-for-2, Casserilla hit a grand slam and a successive three-run homer, finishing the day with two homers and seven RBIs, most by a Shocker in a single game on the season. The seven RBIs were 39% of his RBI total for the season.
SAWYRE SWINGS: Shockers infielder Sawyre Thornhill added another individual accolade to his growing list of accomplishments last Monday against Oklahoma. The junior college transfer set a new career high with five hits, four RBIs and three runs scored in Wichita State’s 18-0 win over the Sooners. Thornhill already has a season-opening 19-game hitting streak and added a career-high five walks in overtime against Cincinnati on April 15.
KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY: shock trainers Eric Wedge, Mike Pelfrey, Mike Sirianni and director of operations Loren Hibbs all have ties to the WSU baseball program. Wedge propelled the Shockers to a national championship as a 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 moving to head coaching at Regis University. Hibbs helped WSU in the CWS program’s very first appearance in 1982, and still holds the NCAA record for single-season runs with 125.