One of Wichita State’s softball practice routines is a pitching circuit. It simulates throwing a seven-inning game, except that throwing a seven-inning game is easier in some ways.
“In the first inning, you throw as many pitches as you can in 90 seconds,” senior pitcher Bailey Lange said. “In the last part of the first inning, you do a workout, like med ball slams or suicides. It’s throwing a lot of pitches in a small amount of time for seven innings.”
Those workouts put the spotlight on a Shocker pitching staff that is projected as a strong point, in large part because of Lange’s return from injury. There is experience and talent behind her and they all should be in good shape after the leg-burning circuits.
“It’s one of the most strenuous workouts I’ve seen our players do,” senior catcher Madison Perrigan said. “It’s getting them ready to pitch two games a day, a full seven innings. Each one of them are in shape to throw a full game.”
Wichita State opens its season this weekend at the Texas Classic in Austin picked second in the American Athletic Conference. The Shockers went 32-24 last season, 12-9 in the American. They finished 2019 conference play with a 10-4 run that included a home series win over first-place USF.
They did that without Lange, who missed most of last season with a leg injury. She is back in her spot as Wichita State’s top pitcher and adds a dangerous hitter. In 2018, she went 20-13 with a 2.90 earned run average and hit.285 with seven home runs.
“I’m mostly excited,” Lange said. “I want the ball and I want to pitch as many games as I can. It’s been awhile.”
In 2018, Lange earned all-conference honors and came up big in NCAA regional play with two complete games. The Shockers enter 2020 knowing they start an ace who performed well in big games and worked on adding a curveball to her arsenal.
“Having her back has been reassuring,” Perrigan said. “She’s right back in it.”
Lange tore ligaments, broke her ankle and fractured the fibula in her left leg in last season’s eighth game. She slid into second during a game against Louisiana Tech and that ended her season. The injury did not end her influence on the Shockers and the experience of watching from the dugout is helpful.
“I have a better perspective this year,” she said. “Just staying calm is something I’ve noticed from great players, and that’s something I need to do. I would get mad at myself a lot for things that weren’t worth getting mad at.”
Coach Kristi Bredbenner welcomes another mature voice on the team. Sometimes, advice or encouragement can mean more coming from a player than a coach. If coaches are telling the Shockers that they are swinging early on pitches, Lange’s time as an observer help her reinforce those thoughts.
“Those eyes are seeing the same things the coaches are and she can really use that to her advantage,” Bredbenner said.
On the field, Bredbenner expects Lange to step into her role as a top two-way threat.
“She’s got the tools to have a lot of success and we’re going to lean on her in a lot of big games,” Bredbenner said.
The pitching circuits should help Lange prepare for those duties.
“It makes a game a lot easier to throw,” she said. “You don’t worry about being tired. You worry more about the pitches you’re throwing.”
The Shockers, Bredbenner is confident, won’t need to tax Lange too heavily because of the staff’s depth and variety of pitches and tempo.
In Lange’s absence, junior Erin McDonald earned second-team all-conference honors with a 15-12 record and a 2.90 earned run average. Junior Caitlin Bingham made 23 starts and threw eight complete games on her way to a 13-9 record and 3.90 ERA.
The bullpen offers junior Hailey Martinez and redshirt sophomore McKenzie Weber.
“We’ve got some quality pitchers with quality experienced right behind (Lange),” Bredbenner said. “On a good day, Bingham is elite and I hope she can get to those good days a lot more this year. Those three pitchers can be a force.”
Memphis Tigers vs. Wichita State Shockers women’s college basketball – Wednesday, February 12th at 6:30 pm CT – Yurview KS (Cox Ch. 2022) and streaming live on yurview.com.
SMU Mustangs vs. Wichita State Shockers women’s college basketball – Wednesday, February 19th at 6:30 pm CT – Yurview KS (Cox Ch. 2022) and streaming live on yurview.com.