BY MADISON SHAPLAND
The Fort Hays State University’s Baseball team has been preparing for the beginning of a new season. The 2023 MIAA Baseball Preseason Coaches Poll ranks the Tigers 12th- with 11 points. Though, the team has higher expectations.
The Tigers face a new year with 22 new players on its roster, including a new head coach, Justin Wichert.
“The tradition of the baseball program brought me here,” Wichert said. “There’s great athletic administration and community support here that built the program and I’m looking forward to continuing that process with them.”
When Jerod Goodale resigned after four years as the head coach for the Tigers, the door was opened for Wichert to step in. From Stillwater, Oklahoma, Wichert looks to lead the Tiger program and use the momentum of success he built at Trinidad State College and carry it over to the Tiger team.
As a four-year head coach for the Trojans (2019-2022), he posted a record of 112-83 and made two trips to the postseason. During his latest season, Wichert brought his team to the Region IX title game with a record of 44-17 and a team batting average of .388, receiving nine All-Region IX honors and placing them third in NJCAA DII rankings.
Several of Wichert’s former players were either drafted or signed with big league organizations, including MLB All-Star Blake Treinen and current minor leaguers Jake Jewell and Logan Allen.
Wichert served as an assistant coach for eight years before taking on the role of head coach. His experience started at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (2010-12), where he helped the team to the titles of 2010 Bi-State Champions, Region II runner-up in 2011, and 2012 OCAC Champions.
Wichert followed this success with a season at Pittsburg State University (2013), where he helped guide the team to the school’s best ERA in 15 years. 2015 took him to the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith where he spent four years building a DII-era-record of 35 games and finished runner-up in the NCAA DII South Central Regional in 2017.
Before his coaching days, Wichert was a right-handed pitcher at Cowley Community College for two years (2002-2003). He was then drafted in the 44th round of the 2003 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres. William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri is where he found himself from 2004-2006, earning second-team all-conference accolades in 2004 and winning 47 games that year, a program record. Following that, Wichert played under managers including Cecil Fielder, Jackie Hernandez and Al Gallagher at Kansas City T-Bones (2006) and Port Charlotte Redfish (2007).
With so many successful stops in his career, Wichert is looking to bring those winning ways to FHSU.
“We’re really focusing on putting in the work and building up the culture of the team this year,” Wichert said.
With many new additions to the team, the team is also looking forward to new opportunities that lie ahead.
“We’ve got to trust the process,” senior catcher Ridge Stephens said. “We have worked together all fall, just taking things day by day. It’ll be important to rely on the work we put in and not get caught up in results.”
“We have a great group of guys this season. The program is going in the right direction and we’re all just excited for the opportunity to compete soon,” said Stephens.
The Tigers’ 2023 debut begins with a matchup against Adams State in Colorado Springs on Friday and Saturday. This season will include 21 home games, the first of which will be on February 24 against the Washburn Ichabods.