Since arriving at Wichita State in 2015, Clayton McGinness aspired to be a starting pitcher.
After three years in a relief pitching role, the right-handed senior is going to get his chance in his final season.
McGinness has been spending a majority of the off-season focusing on the shift from entering in the middle of the game to the first pitch.
“The only adjustment is getting that longer extent of innings,” McGinness said. “Coming from one-two innings now going hopefully six, seven, eight, nine innings, just getting the body in shape to do that and compete for seven, eight innings. That’s really been the only adjustment I’ve had to make. Other than that, it’s still the same game. We’re trying to get guys out, trying to compete in every inning, every pitch. Just going longer, deeper in the game.”
McGinness started seven games as a freshman, but finished with an earned run average (ERA) of 7.48. After working on his control and command for the strike zone, the 6-foot-1-inch pitcher lowered his ERA to 4.93 at the end of his junior year.
With McGinness being bolder at the mound, head coach Todd Butler had the idea of making his senior the starter for Friday night games. Butler put McGinness to the test in a fall exhibition game Oct. 5, 2018, against Arkansas, last year’s College World Series runner-up. Despite the Shockers losing the game, McGinness struck out seven batters and only gave up two earned runs in four innings pitched.
Having improved his throws and his mindset, Butler believes McGinness can make an impact and set the tone for the pitching staff.
“We’ve been waiting for him to be confident,” Butler said. “For years, I’ve been telling him, ‘you’re really good. You can be a difference maker on Friday night.’ Right now, he’s pinned in to be our Friday night starter. He’s very mature; it’s his fourth year. He’ll have a chance to move on after this year to the next level. He’s been 90-94 (miles per hour) with good location. The main thing for him is maturity and confidence.”
Wichita State hired former MLB pitcher Mike Pelfrey as their new pitching coach in January, and McGinness has soaked up as much knowledge as possible about being a starter. He learned about the difference in routine from being a starter compared to a relief pitcher, preparing physically and mentally for the change.
WATCH : Mike Pelfrey introduced as @GoShockersBSB‘s new Pitching Coach
— Go Shockers (@GoShockers) January 8, 2019
Pelfrey is equally as confident in McGinness, often making him the first pitcher to go head-to-head with his teammates at the plate when practice goes into live situations.
“He’s a guy that I’m going to lean on,” Pelfrey said. “Being around him and watching his bullpens and seeing his pitches, his movement, and command, I think he’s ready to lead the pitching staff. I’m excited about him. I’m excited for him. I know he’s excited and his confidence is sky-high, which it needs to be. But he’s ready.”
The Amazonia, Mo. native has also developed a changeup in his mix of pitches, allowing him to have a mix of three pitches for a strike. With the new combination of pitches and a more confident approach, Butler and Pelfrey both agree that he is up for the role change.
As the only senior pitcher for the Shockers, McGinness looks to set the bar for the rest of the pitching staff and put Wichita State in a winning position.
“It’s just about competing. It’s about going out there and giving everything you’ve got,” McGinness said. “It’s not about just going out there and working on stuff. It’s you going out there and it’s one-on-one, and you’re doing what it takes for you to get that guy out.”