Shocker baseball players gain valuable experience in summer leagues hosted at WSU

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Kaylee Stout/The Sunflower

Diamond Dawgs' Garrett VanDeventer looks to throw a pitch during the game against Santa Barbabra.

Prior to sports shutdowns across the nation due to COVID-19, Wichita State’s baseball team was off to a 13-2 start under new head coach Eric Wedge and looked to be one of the surprise teams in college baseball. 

WSU players were left to wonder what their shortened baseball season could have been. But unlike many student-athletes across the country, they were given a chance to return to campus and play again.  

As part of two summer leagues — the Sunflower Collegiate League and the NBC World Series — some WSU players returned to the diamond to play with college baseball players from other universities. In total, 19 Shockers played in the SCL and 15 played in the NBC World Series. 

Senior outfielder Hunter Gibson said he felt his return to Eck Stadium was an overall positive experience.  

“It was definitely a good time, familiar ground,” Gibson said. “It was good to see pitches from there, stuff I’m used to. Being around the guys was also a good thing as well.”

Throughout his time in the SCL and the NBC World Series, Gibson played for the Rose Hill Sluggers and was able to find some success. In 28 games played during the SCL, Gibson hit for an average of .371 with six home runs. 

Gibson said the summer leagues offered a great learning experience for himself and other players. 

“It was more learning who you are as a person and how to get better — not necessarily having a coach by your side all the time,” he said. “During summer ball, you’re kind of on your own and you’re relying on what you feel, what you can correct yourself. I think that’s really going to help our guys mature.”

Senior pitcher Preston Snavely, who played with the Hutchinson Monarchs, said he thought the summer leagues were especially helpful considering how many Wichita State players participated in them.

“You get to know the guys off the field a little bit better and also you see the other team and it makes it more fun but competitive at the same time,” Snavely said.  “It was just nice to have a season that wasn’t really impacted, for the most part, by the circumstances that we’re in currently.”

As one of the oldest players on the baseball team, he said he thinks the summer leagues also developed his leadership skills for his second crack at being a senior. 

Snavley found some success across his six games, pitching to the tune of 1.50 ERA. That included 39 strikeouts across 30 innings. 

Both Snavely and Gibson think the experience at summer leagues could prove vital for the team moving forward and could help maintain momentum. 

“We’re going to have to get the new guys on the same page with us as the returning guys,” Gibson said. “We’re here to take care of business. We’re here to win, but we’re going to have fun and compete to the best of our ability.”