Baseball looks for first postseason berth since 2013

Wichita State sophomore David Vanvooren claps after a home-run during the game against Dixie State at Eck Stadium on Mar. 3, 2021. (Khánh Nguyễn/ The Sunflower)

Heading into the third season under head coach Eric Wedge, the expectations for the Shocker baseball program are the highest they’ve ever been. The team is fresh off back to back winning seasons, including the highest finish in the American since joining the conference.

With the program starting to trend in a positive direction, the Shockers have made their goals for the 2022 season clear. They want to make an NCAA Regional for the first time since 2013.

“We definitely have the talent to do it,” junior college transfer Will Stevens said. “We just need guys to step into their roles and perform how they can and there should be no real issues as long as we move forward as a team.”

Senior first baseman Garrett Kocis could’ve gone professional following his breakout junior season, but opted to return for one last season of college baseball. Part of his decision came from head coach Eric Wedge’s confidence in reaching the postseason for the first time during his coaching tenure.

After seeing and interacting with WSU’s 24 newcomers, Kocis agreed. 

“That’s the reason why I came back,” Garrett Kocis said. “Talking to Wedge and coaches about the new guys before I saw them, they were really confident in us making the postseason and a regional push. Now that I’m here seeing all the new guys and the guys that came back, I know it’s definitely possible and we’re going to do it.”

WSU players and coaches aren’t shy about their goal of returning to the NCAA Tournament. The team feels that this season is pivotal in returning the program to national prominence and building on it for years to come.

“Everybody knows this goal and being able to be a part of it, especially early on,” freshman Payton Tolle said. “Hopefully we make a regional and it’ll set the tone for the next two, three, four years, however long I’m here. It’ll set the tone for what the expectation is and what the goal is every year.”

The Shockers will headline a new starting rotation this season, following the departures of Liam Eddy and Preston Snavely. Jace Kaminska returns as the staff’s ace, fresh off a First Team All-Conference finish last season as a freshman. 

Wedge said he is excited about the new additions they’ve made to the rotation, with freshman Payton Tolle and Will Stevens expected to join Kaminska in the weekend rotation.

“We’ve got a lot of newcomers here and some arms that we’re counting on,” Wedge said. “Kaminska, obviously with the year he had last year, he kind of leads the way for us, from a starting pitching standpoint and then we’ve got some veterans in the bullpen that are going to lead the way as well.”

After being picked to finish fourth in the AAC earlier this spring, the Shockers are hoping to use that as fuel for this upcoming season. The American has historically been a one bid league over the past couple years, but will be in the conversation of receiving multiple bids, including WSU, later this summer.

“This is a team that could easily finish in the two or three spots if everything falls into place,” D1 Baseball’s Kendall Rogers said of the Shockers. “Eric Wedge has a team that could make some serious noise.”

The 2022 campaign will get started on Friday as the Shockers are set to travel to Ruston, Louisiana for a three-game series with Louisiana Tech. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.