Shockers win season opener


Selena Favela

Wichita State’s Ben Hecht winds up for a pitch during the game against Utah Valley. Hecht pitched during one inning of the game. (Feb. 17, 2017)

In a back-and-forth contest, Wichita State started the 2017 campaign on the right foot with a 4-3 victory over Utah Valley on Friday.

Senior pitcher Willie Schwanke, who picked up his first win of the season, set the tone in the first inning when he sent down the Wolverines in order.

WSU threatened to score in the first when sophomore Alec Bohm laced a ball to deep right field, but a  diving catch by Callahan Moltzan, coupled with a base running gaffe, turned into an inning-ending double play.

“That was a great diving play by the right fielder,” head coach Todd Butler said. “It was no doubt the play of the day.”

Sophomore Jordan Boyer put WSU on the board first with a two-run single to deep shortstop that scored Trey Vickers and Travis Young.

Utah Valley would respond in the top half of the third. Utah Valley’s Jake Atkinson began the inning by drawing a leadoff walk, and Kade Poulsen followed with a line drive to right-center field. Jake Berry drove in Atkinson with a fielder’s choice to Bohm. Trevor Howell and Trevor Peterson would both reach base following Berry’s at-bat, loading the bases with only one out.

“The big thing with Schwanke is staying healthy, and he got a little bit out of his delivery and had to gut his way back through,” pitching coach Mike Steele said.

The Wolverines would not score again in the inning, however, as Schwanke induced a double-play to Bohm to end the inning.

“It got tight behind the plate, and I had to start aiming my pitches,” Schwanke said. “I had to grind. This team is good, but from a pitching standpoint though I got my job done. A quality start is all I’m asking no matter what.”

Poulsen and Berry began the fifth inning with back-to-back doubles, tying the game at two before Schwanke struck out the final two batters of the inning.

The Shockers would respond in their half of the fifth when Young started things off with a double. Jordan Boyer drew a walk, and Greyson Jenista drove the two in with a double over Berry’s head in left field to give the Shockers a 4-2 lead.

“Travis Young was really key today,” Butler said. “He had a good day stealing third base with nobody out and smoking a couple of balls.”

Utah Valley’s Jackson Overlund started the sixth inning with a towering home run to left field, bringing the Wolverines back within one.

Relievers Landon Holifield, Ben Hecht, and Reagan Beichler combined to strike out eight of the last nine Wolverines to finish the game.

“They started trying to take away Willie’s fastball, I wanted to go with movement and stuff instead,” Steele said, “and once I saw what they were doing with stuff I decided to stay with it.”

Jenista finished the night 2-4 with two runs batted in. Jordan Boyer went 1-2 with two runs batted in and a run scored.

The Shockers Utah Valley again Saturday afternoon at Eck Stadium. The first pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.