Column: Shockers find breakout star in homegrown freshman

With nine wins and 19 losses, at this point it’s no secret Wichita State baseball is struggling. Their chances at making the NCAA tournament don’t look too strong. Weekend-starter Sam Tewes is sidelined after undergoing “Tommy Johns” surgery, but WSU is finding steady improvement in their starting rotation, and it’s all at the hand of a hometown, homegrown freshman. 

Connor Lungwitz, a freshman from Wichita, earned Valley honors when he was named Missouri Valley pitcher of the week last week for his efforts against Stephen F. Austin. 

In the matchup with the Lumberjacks on March 29, Lungwitz threw six scoreless innings, with 10 strikeouts and two walks. He allowed a mere three base runners in six innings, and most importantly, he captured the win. 

“After the first inning, after I got the last two guys out, I said ‘I can do this,’” Lungwitz said. “Don’t give them anything after that, not much worse is going to happen, ‘I’ve got this.’” 

Lungwitz threw for a victory in his first collegiate start. He made two relief appearances before the start. 

The fastball-heaving right-hander took the opportunity, and made the most out of it after being written into the starting rotation. With Tewes’ season-ending injury, and inconsistencies among the rest of the pitching team, Lungwitz very well could be the spark Wichita State and head coach Todd Butler have been waiting for. 

WSU could use a hometown hero, week in and week out at Eck Stadium. Lungwitz rescued a team when they needed rescuing the most. In a glim season-opening, he’s shown a high-ceiling of potential. 

Against Oral Roberts on Tuesday, Lungwitz claimed his second win of the season, making him 2-0 in career starts. He pitched three innings, recording two strikeouts while allowing six hits and three earned runs. 

Lungwitz is likely to compete for a permanent stay in the starting rotation, and if he’s not or if he is, he’s destined to enjoy his time there for the long haul. 

“I get to play for the people I grew up with, and in my hometown,” he said. “A lot of my friends and family were here tonight. It’s a lot of fun.”