Complete with a “SportsCenter” Top 10 catch in the outfield, the Wichita State softball team registered its highest-ranked win in program history this past week with a 9-2 win over No. 6 Oklahoma State on Thursday in Stillwater.
It was the highlight of a 4-1 finish at the Mizuno Classic, as the Shockers collected their second ranked win of the season and improved to 17-4 this season.
“We know that if we play our game, then we’ve got an opportunity to give the best teams in the country a good game,” WSU coach Kristi Bredbenner said. “Now the challenge is doing that every single day, whether you’re playing the No. 6 team in the country or an average team. Hopefully we can use this as confidence and momentum to give ourselves the attitude of knowing that we can compete against anyone.”
WSU capitalized on early mistakes by Oklahoma State, as it plated five runs in the top of the first inning. Neleigh Herring delivered an RBI single to start the scoring, then the Shockers had three straight two-out hits from Bailee Nickerson, Camryn Compton and Kaylee Huecker to establish a 5-0 lead. Maddison Perrigan and Nickerson followed with RBI hits in the second inning to extend the lead to 7-0.
With senior Bailey Lange in the circle, that was all the cushion she needed. The ace threw a complete game, allowing two runs, six hits and two walks, and she struck out three. Lange threw another complete game in a 3-1 win over Texas San Antonio to improve to 8-1 this season.
“Bailey is doing a great job and really staying within herself and not trying to do too much,” Bredbenner said. “I’m proud of how she’s throwing right now. She’s pitching exactly how we expected from her and it’s good to see her have such a good season.”
But the play of the week came from Nickerson in center field, as she tracked down a ball that seemed out of reach to make the grab just as she crashed into the fence to rob a sure hit by OSU. The play was included in Thursday night’s Top 10 plays on ESPN.
“It was an unbelievable catch,” Bredbenner said. “She got her glove on it right before hitting the padding. It was a great catch, but totally expected from her. She’s made some unbelievable plays in the outfield already this season and it’s just something we expect from her now. I’m happy for her, but I’m not surprised.”
Following the historic win over OSU on Thursday, WSU followed it up with a 4-2 win over Texas San Antonio and 9-3 win over UMKC on Friday and then a 3-1 win over UTSA on Saturday and 5-2 loss in a rematch against the Cowgirls.
The Shockers will open up American Athletic Conference play up this coming weekend when they host East Carolina for a four-game series, March 26-28, at Wilkins Stadium.
Pitching struggles in baseball’s 1-3 Florida road trip
The WSU baseball team couldn’t find enough pitching against stiff competition during its road trip to Florida, finishing 1-3.
WSU was swept by Florida International in an 11-2 loss on Friday and a 9-2 loss on Sunday, while it managed to split against Stetson with a 9-4 loss on Friday and 11-8 win on Saturday.
The Shockers outscored Stetson 6-0 in the final three innings to erase an early five-run deficit in the Saturday win. Garrett Kocis went 4-for-5 in the win and also hit two home runs during the trip.
Ross Cadena had three hits, while Corrigan Bartlett drove in three runs and freshman Chuck Ingram hit his first career home run in the win. Reliever Ryan Stuempfig earned the win on the mound, while Aaron Haase notched his fourth save of the season.
Ace Preston Snavely kept WSU in the first game of the week against FIU, allowing three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings of work, but the Shockers proceeded to give up 11 runs in the final three innings of the 11-2 loss.
WSU struggled to find better performances than that from its starters, as the other three starters on the weekend combined to allow 15 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings of work.
The Shockers (8-8) will return home to play Kansas State in a 6 p.m. Tuesday game at Eck Stadium.
Women’s tennis beats KU for first ranked win since 2019
The WSU women’s tennis team picked up a thrilling match victory over No. 45 Kansas over the weekend for the program’s first ranked win since 2019 at the Coleman Tennis Complex.
It came down to the final singles match to decide the overall match, as freshman Jessie Zheng, playing No. 5 singles, shook off a second-set tiebreaker loss to win the decisive third set to win 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3) and claim the match, 4-3, for the Shockers.
It was an emotional win after the team had lost nine of 10 matches entering the day.
“When the losses start to accumulate, it’s human nature to perhaps doubt yourself or lose some belief, but this group has remained resilient and determined,” WSU coach Colin Foster told GoShockers.com. “For Jessie to be in that situation and find a way to overcome nerves and pressure as a freshman against a good opponent, I’m just really happy for her and this group.”
WSU continued its strong play in doubles by once again winning the doubles point against KU. The duo of Sarvinoz Saidhujaeva and Marta Bellucco, ranked No. 23 in the nation, dispatched KU’s No. 1 double team, while Zheng paired with Ting-Ya Hsu in No. 2 doubles to earn WSU the doubles point.
In singles, Saidhujaeva collected a ranked win over No. 81 Sonia Smagina, 6-4, 6-1, in No. 1 singles, while Hsu also won at No. 3 singles to set up Zheng’s heroics to end the match.
Bellucco, Hsu and Saidhujaeva will be honored in a senior day ceremony for Wednesday’s 3 p.m. home match against DePaul.
The WSU men’s tennis team (9-5) will have its own home stand at Coleman Tennis Complex beginning Friday in a 1 p.m. match against Creighton, followed by a noon Saturday match against No. 33 Denver and a noon Monday match against Texas Arlington.
Men’s golf brings home a tournament championship
The WSU men’s golf team surged ahead in the final round to top a 16-team field to claim the Grand Canyon Invitational title last week. It’s the first time the Shockers have won a tournament that size since October 2014.
WSU entered the day four strokes behind Grand Canyon and three back from Eastern Michigan, but finished eight shots ahead of both in the third round. The Shockers (862) ended up finishing 10-over-par in the 54-hole competition to edge out Southern Miss (864) for the title.
Zac Owens led WSU with a 1-under score of 212 to finish in a tie for fourth place, while Marcus Wochner finished tied for eighth with a total score of 214 and Brock Polhill, highlighted by a low score of 68 in the first round, tied for 19th overall with a score of 217. Dawson Lewis (223) and Jack Glenn (224) rounded out WSU’s team score.
The WSU women’s golf team finished fourth in Missouri State Invitational earlier last week led by Kenni Henson and Megan Lucas, who both had a 54-hole total of 243 to tie for 10th place overall. The WSU team score was rounded out by Aufa Rachmadya (245), Mar Vidal (250), Madison Slayton (254) and Chiara Arya (257).
The men’s team will be back in action on Monday and Tuesday in Springfield, Mo., while the women’s team was in the midst of concluding a tournament in Arizona on Sunday.
Winny Koskei wraps up cross country career with another NCAA appearance
Wichita State senior Winny Koskei finished in 125th place with a time of 21 minutes, 42.6 seconds in the 6-kilometer race at the NCAA Cross Country Championships last week.
It was the third straight appearance for Koskei in the NCAA race to cap off a stellar senior season that saw her win her third straight AAC individual championship.
Volleyball can’t end losing slide in KU losses
After an 8-0 start to the season, the WSU volleyball team has lost its last seven matches. The Shockers dropped two more this past week in a home-and-away with Kansas, losing in four sets (18-25, 25-19, 25-13, 25-15) in Wichita on Thursday and in three sets (25-22, 25-22, 25-20) in Lawrence on Saturday.
Senior middle Emma Wright had a standout week, posting a season-best 12 kills on a .500 hitting average in the first match and following that up with 10 kills, a .476 hitting percentage and three blocks in the second match.
Sophomore libero Lily Liekweg registered a career-high 28 digs in the first match, while setter Kayce Litzau delivered a team-high 18 assists. In the second match, freshman Natalie Foster and sophomore Sophia Rohling each added seven kills.
WSU (8-7, 3-5 AAC) wraps up its spring season with a pair of home matches against division-leading Houston (12-4, 8-0 AAC) at Koch Arena. The Shockers play at 7 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday.