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SPOTLIGHT
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Lewick to start tourney opener for Tigers

Published on -5/9/2012, 10:33 AM

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By CONOR NICHOLL
cnicholl@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University senior left-hander Shawn Lewick, in his first season with the Tigers, has delivered the best earned-run average by an FHSU starting pitcher since the program switched to the MIAA six years ago. Lewick, known for his competitiveness, has posted a 6-4 record and 3.72 ERA in 651⁄3 innings.

Lewick will start Game 1 of the MIAA conference tournament Thursday for the sixth-seeded Tigers (26-22, 20-19 MIAA) against No. 3 Missouri Southern State University (32-18, 23-17 MIAA). Game time is 2:30 p.m. at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan.

“He has been outstanding for us,” second-year coach Steve Johnson said.

Lewick helped Hutchinson Community College reach the Junior College World Series and earned All-American honors. Then, he spent one season at Kansas State University before he came to Hays. This summer, Lewick will pitch for the Hays Larks and will look to catch on with a professional team.

This spring, Lewick has dealt with some nagging arm pain that he has felt throughout his career. Still, Lewick has worked at least five innings and allowed three earned runs or fewer in all but two starts. Lewick thought he would be “at a higher level” this season, but is pleased overall with the year.

“Right now, what I am doing is working,” he said.

Those subpar outings came at Emporia State University on March 30 and at home against Missouri Western State University last weekend. Lewick worked a combined eight innings in those contests and allowed 21 hits and 20 runs, but only 11 were earned. In both outings, Fort Hays made multiple errors behind Lewick.

“We have an error or two in the same inning, I feel like I start to press,” Lewick said. “That’s why I try to take a deep breath and relax.”

After the Emporia State contest, Lewick bounced back with five straight solid outings. Senior closer Brett Macari expects the same this weekend from his longtime friend. Macari has seen Lewick raise his game in key situations in high school and college with a strong inner drive.

“Even off the field, he is always competitive,” Macari said. “When we are playing golf, he is competitive. When we are playing basketball, he is competitive. It’s something that I don’t think you can teach somebody. You have to grow up and learn and know how to be competitive.”

Sanders, Wade catching well

The one position that has seen a consistent platoon throughout the spring is at catcher with juniors Jay Sanders and Shane Wade, each first-year starters. Johnson called the position a question mark entering the season, but said the duo has “probably exceeded expectations.”

Sanders has hit .346 with eight extra-base hits in 81 at-bats, while Wade carries a .366 average with 11 extra-base hits in 71 at-bats. Sanders has caught 26 games, Wade 20.

Sanders has caught Lewick all year, but recently banged up his shoulder. He participated in drills Tuesday and should be OK for Thursday.

“We have had some troubles defending the running game,” Johnson said. “Jay Sanders has been outstanding all year receiving and blocking. Shane Wade has continued to improve receiving and blocking and probably given us more of a chance to throw some people out.”

Bunts
Senior first baseman J.C. Ochoa has seen his average drop to 81 points to .307 since April 10. Macari started Game 3 of last weekend’s series at first base, but Johnson said Ochoa will start this weekend. Even when Ochoa isn’t hitting well, Johnson his

impressed with the first baseman’s ability to reach base (team-high 27 walks) and his energy: “You will never see him coast, you will never see him show frustration,” Johnson said. … Junior reliever Kyle Leroy has been the team’s second-best reliever with a 2-0 record and 4.93 ERA in a team-high 17 appearances. Last Saturday, Leroy threw 105 pitches over six innings, easily the longest performance of his collegiate career. Most pitchers have a week’s recovery after such an outing, but Leroy -- known for his rubber arm -- asked to throw Sunday and is available Thursday. Johnson called Leroy maybe the team’s biggest surprise on the mound this year.
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