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Baseball Preview: Utah Tech vs Wichita State Athletics

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Wichita State (1-2, 0-0 American) vs. Utah Tech (1-3, 0-0 WAC)
Wednesday February 22nd | 3:00 PM CT | St. George, Utah (Bruce Hurst Field) TV: WAC International | Radio: KFH 97.5 FM/1240 AM RHP Cameron Bye (0-0, 27.00) vs. RHP Dakoda West (0-0, 0.00)

Thursday 23 February | 3:00 PM CT | St. George, Utah (Bruce Hurst Field) TV: WAC International | Radio: KFH 97.5 FM/1240 AM RHP Clark Candiotti (0-1, 4:50) vs. RHP Brett Porthan (0-1, 12:30pm)

Friday February 24th | 5:00 PM CT | St. George, Utah (Bruce Hurst Field) TV: WAC International | Radio: KFH 97.5 FM/1240 AM LHP Payton Tolle (0-0, 3:00) vs. RHP Jake Dahle (0-0, 30:00)

Saturday February 25th | 1:00 PM CT | St. George, Utah (Bruce Hurst Field) TV: WAC International | Radio: KNSS 98.7 FM/1330 AM RHP Grant Adler (1-0, 7:50) vs. RHP Ryan Hardman (0-1, 7:36)

SCENE SETTER: Wichita State continues a season-opening seven-game road swing with four road contests at Utah Tech in St. George, Utah. The series was originally scheduled for Thursday-Saturday with a Friday doubleheader, but was rescheduled for four single games starting Wednesday. The Shockers lead Utah to a 1-2 record after claiming a three-game series finale set at Long Beach State on Sunday. Wichita State scored eight runs in the third inning to open the game, including a stretch of 10-of-11 batters reaching base safely. Going into the series, WSU was held within two hits in the season opener on Friday before falling to a home run by Rocco Peppi on Saturday. Wichita State does not play a midweek contest until March 7 after three weekend series. WSU is aiming to rebound from a 21-36 season a year ago, the second-most losses in program history. Interim head coach Loren Hibbs was named to lead the Shockers in December following the departure of Eric Wedge, who compiled a 65-61 record in three seasons at the helm. Wichita State is looking for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2013 season, a regional bid that was later vacated by the NCAA.

SHOCKER BASEBALL ON THE RADIO & ESPN PLUS: KFH 97.5 FM/1240 AM will once again serve as home radio for Wichita State’s baseball broadcasts in 2023. Saturday’s game against Utah Tech will be broadcast on KNSS 98.7 FM/1330 AM. Former Shocker pitcher (1991-94) and Pizza Hut Shocker Sports Hall of Famer Shane Dennis and Denning Gerig to be called to action against Utah Tech, with “The Voice of the Shockers” and Pizza Hut Shocker Sports Hall of Famer Mike Kennedy returning to the air following the conclusion of the Wichita State men’s basketball season. Live video for all four games in the series will be streamed live on WAC International. Live audio, as well as live stats, will be available for all games at GoShockers.com/listen and ShockerStats.com.

HISTORY OF THE SERIES: The Shockers and the Trailblazers have met just three times in program history, one series in Wichita’s Eck Stadium during the 2021 season. Wichita State swept the set with scores of 2-1, 15-3, and 15-7. Among WSU’s active roster, only Seth Stroh, Cooper Harris, and Chuck Ingram saw action in the series, highlighted by Harris’ first collegiate home run in the series finale. Stroh went 2-6 in the series, while Ingram went 0-for-4 in his only start. Friday’s game was a pitching duel between Trailblazers Jimmy Borzone and Shockers Liam Eddy. A solo home run by Corrigan Bartlett in the seventh proved to be the difference. Garrett Kocis led the way in games two and three, hitting two homers in each game and combining for 12 RBI.

SCOUTING UTAH TECH: Utah Tech is in its first season competing under its current name after rebranding from Dixie State. The Trailblazers are also in the third year of their transition to the Division I level, having made five straight trips to the NCAA Division II West Regionals from 2013-17. Utah Tech finished 22-33 overall in 2022, but a 14-16 record was good for fourth place in the WAC. The Trailblazers were picked eighth in the 13-team conference in the 2023 preseason poll. The series against Wichita State is part of a 13-game season-opening home run at Bruce Hurst Field, a 29-year-old facility which can accommodate 2,500 people. Utah Tech lost three of four games in their opening series against Portland, allowing 45 runs in the process. The Trailblazers’ pitching staff gave up 17 runs in Friday’s season opener and 21 in the second game of a Saturday doubleheader, but rallied to hold the Pilots to just one run in Sunday’s 11-1 win. Senior outfielder Tyson Fisher struck twice to become Utah Tech’s career home run record holder with 34 long pitches. Utah Tech is led by head coach Chris Pfatenhauer, who won his 300th game in last year’s season finale and is entering his 11th season in charge of the Trailblazers.

IT’S BEEN A WHILE: The series against Utah Tech will be only the second trip to Utah state for the Shockers in program history. The Beehive State’s only other trip was in 1990, a two-game series at BYU in Provo. The Shockers lost both games in the series, including a 23-3 loss in Game 1 that was their worst loss since the program resumed play in 1978.

TASTE THE FAVORS: Lefty pitcher Caden Favors showed his versatility over the weekend in Long Beach, delivering two strong outings in different roles. Friday night, he got into the fifth inning of a 1-0 game with the bases loaded and nobody out, escaped the jam while allowing only one run, and then kept the Dirtbags off the board the rest of the night in a 2- 0 losses. On Sunday, he capped off the Shockers’ 11-6 victory with three strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth, allowing just one unearned run.

NO FREE PASS: The shocking pitchers combined to issue just eight walks over the course of three games in Long Beach, the fewest walks dealt out by any pitching staff in the American Athletic Conference opening weekend. None of the seven Wichita State pitchers who saw action had more than two walks.

BLAIR BOMBS: Long Beach State’s Blair Field is one of the most notoriously pitcher-friendly ballparks in the country, with expansive outfield sizes and weather conditions that typically hurt long balls. Heading into Sunday’s series finale, Wichita State had played eight straight games in the ballpark without homering, dating back to a solo pitch by Bret Bascue in 2010. The Shockers turned the script around with two blowouts in the first three innings, getting two- run jack by Garrett Pennington and Mauricio Millan.

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