It wasn’t the desired series win, but the Wichita State baseball team didn’t leave California empty-handed on the opening weekend of the season.
The Shockers batted in 11 runs in the first three innings of Sunday’s series finale to clinch an 11-6 victory over Long Beach State at Blair Field.
It was the first WSU win for interim head coach Loren Hibbs, who had 819 career hits under his belt over a 27-year career at Charlotte, but none before at his alma mater.
Hibbs was a star player for WSU from 1982 to 1984, then served as an assistant coach under Gene Stephenson from 1985 to 1992. After a nearly three-decade run at Charlotte, Hibbs returned to WSU in the summer of 2019 as manager of program operations under former head coach Eric Wedge. When Wedge and WSU parted ways last fall, Hibbs was promoted to interim head coach for this season.
Here is the recap of WSU baseball’s season-opening series in the 2023 schedule:
Game 1: Long Beach State wins 2-0
Wichita State’s offense was cut to just a couple hits in a season-opening shutout loss on the road.
WSU starter Clark Candiotti, a college junior transfer, pitched well in his debut, allowing two runs in more than four innings of work, but took the loss. Caden Favors, a young lefty, finished the game with four strikeouts in four scoreless innings.
The Shockers’ best scoring opportunity of the game came in the eighth inning when Seth Stroh hit a pinch-hit double and moved to third base on a groundout. A walk by Kyte McDonald put the tying runner on base with two outs, but Brock Rodden jumped out in foul territory to end the threat. WSU was settled in order in the ninth inning.
Game 2: Long Beach State wins 6-5
The Shockers appeared to be on the verge of a win on Saturday night when Rodden hit a go-ahead RBI single in the top of the ninth inning. But the Dirtbags would be gone minutes later when Rocco Peppi blasted the game-winning 2-run home run just over the fence in left field off WSU reliever Robert Cranz.
Payton Tolle, the WSU two-way star who also finished with four hits on the weekend, was superb in his mound debut, allowing just one more hit in six innings.
The Shockers rallied back to a 4-2 lead in the top half of the seventh inning when Rodden hit a 2-RBI triple to right center, then scored on a throwing error. But the lead would be short-lived, as Long Beach State tied the score to set up the dramatic back-and-forth ninth inning.
Game 3: Wichita State wins 11-6
WSU took out its frustrations Sunday the next day, as newcomer Garrett Pennington hit the Shockers’ first home run of the season in the first inning with a 2-run shot to left center.
Rodden walked out with an RBI of 2 out in the second inning for a 3-0 lead, though Long Beach State would rally to tie the game with three runs of its own in the bottom half of the second.
It was then that WSU’s offensive explosion occurred in the third inning, when 10 of the first 11 batters reached base safely. Mauricio Millan, a college transfer junior who won the catch job, delivered a 2-run homer down the left field line, then Sawyre Thornhill snatched an RBI single through the right side, followed by a bases-loaded walk by Rodden. A Long Beach State hurdle led to another run, then Pennington delivered an RBI double and Tolle finished the rally with a 2-RBI single to establish an 11-3 lead.
Derby native Grant Adler recorded his first Division 1 win with his debut outing lasting six innings, allowing five runs while striking out five and walking two. Freshman Nate Snead recorded two scoreless innings of relief, while Favors had the last three out of the game.
What’s next for Wichita State baseball
The Shockers will be back in action with another road series, this time a 4-game series against Utah Tech starting on Thursday at 7pm followed by a doubleheader on Friday with game times at 5pm and 8pm and series finale at 5pm. Saturday. The Trailblazers lost three of our games in their season-opening series against Portland.