Shocker softball prepares for Demarini Desert Classic

Grant Cohen

Wichita State’s performance last week in College Station, Texas, was better than what their 2-3 record says.

With wins over Colorado State, two of its three losses were by one run to ranked teams.

The Shockers fell 5-6 to seventh ranked UCLA, and took the hometown team, No. 24 Texas A&M, 3-4 in eight innings, but then fell 1-9 in the tournament’s final day.

“[Playing that close] shows our potential,” head coach Kristi Bredbenner said. “We played really well in those two games. Unfortunately, in the A&M game, the offense didn’t show up as much as the defense and the pitching from Katie [Malone]. For us, it is a good starting point. If we are firing on all cylinders, we are going to be a tough team to beat.”

The preseason favorites of the Missouri Valley Conference will play in the Demarini Desert Classic in Las Vegas, playing five games in three days. The Shockers open up the showcase at 1:30 p.m. Friday with a matchup against San Jose State.

“Last year, we stumbled a little bit,” junior Macklin Hitz said. “Everyone is just working hard to be better than they were yesterday instead of going out there and trying to prove something.”

Hitz and Laurie Anne Derico each hit a homerun in College Station, while obtaining three total RBIs.

The Shockers got a huge boost from sophomore Paige Luellen during last week’s games. Luellen had six hits to go along with six RBI’s, hitting .462 percent in the first five games.

In her first two starts of the season, Jenni Brooks has a record of 2-1 with a 2.71 earned run average. Brooks struck out five batters while giving up four runs in three games pitched.

“We’re looking really good right now,” Brooks said. “We have great team chemistry and are playing within ourselves.”

Besides MVC play, the Shockers’ main focus is getting a spot in the NCAA tournament. Bredbenner said getting wins in this tournament will help boost the Shockers’ tournament resume.  

“The losses last week are not going to hurt us,” Bredbenner said. “If anything, they kind of help us with our schedule. When those teams hit conference play, their strength of schedule is going to only get better. We match up well with all five teams, and if we can go 5-0 this weekend, it will continue to build that resume.”

1:30 p.m. Friday: San Jose State (1-5)

While the Spartans have lost their games by significant margins, SJSU proved last week at the Kajikawa Classic that they can compete with anyone when they are at their best.

Their only win was against the University of Virginia, but the Spartans managed to dominate 10-1, winning in six innings.

The Spartans score an average of 3.2 runs per game, but give up an average of 10.6 runs per game.

Brittany Abacherli will be the player to watch for the opposition, hitting .400 percent with a home run and six RBI’s already this season.

Wichita State’s strong .241 batting average will come in to play for this game.

6 p.m. Friday: University of Hawaii (4-2)

Hawaii comes to Vegas on a two-game losing streak after winning their first four games. The Rainbow Warriors shut out St. Mary’s, Ole Miss and UMKC, twice, but those losses came with a revenge defeat from Ole Miss and UMKC a day later.

Kanani Aina-Cabrales makes life miserable for opposing batters. She struck out nine batters so far this season while forcing her opponents to only hit .128 percent from behind the plate.

The Rainbow Warriors’ other starting pitcher, Brittany Hitchcock, is just as productive when she is on the mound. She has struck out 16 batters and has an earned run average of 1.59 in three games.

This game is going to be a defensive-minded matchup for the Shockers, and will prove to be a great non-conference matchup early on in the season.

9 a.m. Saturday: Cal State Northridge (3-2)

CSNU is not a team that scores a lot of runs, only scoring 13 runs in five games. Their batting average is .207 percent, and they only average five hits per contest.

Taylor Glover is a player that swings the bat well for the Commodores, hitting .357 and hitting four RBI’s.

Cal State only committed three errors and produced a fielding percentage of .979 in their first five games.

Wichita State will be playing in a back-to-back, defensive-minded game, playing in one 15 hours earlier.

11:15 a.m. Saturday: Oregon State (4-1)

OSU is coming into this matchup crushing the ball, hitting .381 percent as a team. The Beavers are led by McKenna Arriola and Lovie Lopez, who are hitting well over .500 so far this season.

Both girls have five RBI’s each, while Natalie Hampton leads the Beavers in RBI’s with 10. Hampton also has a home run to go along with her batting average of .353.

All of their wins have come when they have scored six runs or more, with their only loss coming from Cal Poly, 3-7.

The key for the Shockers will be to limit OSU’s chances of scoring and not allow runners to get on base.

9 a.m. Sunday: Boise State (0-5)

If there is a team that is in desperate need of a victory, the Boise State Broncos would fit that category.

Opponents have outscored the Broncos 69-35, and Boise State has allowed their opponents to hit .328. Boise State is batting .228 from the mound, despite a fielding percentage of .940 with eight errors.

 Wichita State will have an excellent chance at ending their road trip on a win with this matchup Sunday.