Spring 2006

Two-Way Shocker


Damon Sublett blew hitters away as a freshman — the hard-throwing reliever didn’t allow an earned run while posting nine saves — so he naturally earned a certain amount of notoriety as  a pitcher.

And let’s be clear, Sublett isn’t complaining about that fact.

However, the sophomore from Wichita is determined to establish that he’s not just a pitcher. “I came here as a hitter, but I had a better year pitching,” says Sublett, the 2005 Missouri Valley Conference freshman of the year and a first team Freshman All-American.

“People labeled me a pitcher,” he says, “and that’s great. But I came here to hit. I came here to play a position. I want to prove I can do that.”

Clearly, then, there are two areas to cover when discussing Sublett’s immediate impact on Shocker baseball — pitching and hitting. Here’s a closer look at each:

On the Mound

Sublett had success as a pitcher for Wichita Northwest High School, but he came to Wichita State expecting to be solely an infielder.

“We signed him as a position player,” Shocker pitching coach Brent Kemnitz said before this season got under way. “We knew he had ability on the mound.”

Ability indeed. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound right-hander developed into one of the nation’s elite closers, going 2-0 with those nine saves while limiting opposing batters to a paltry .098 batting average in 17 appearances. Using a nasty slider as his out pitch, he struck out 31 and allowed just six walks in 19 1/3 innings.

The scoreless streak continued into this season. Through 3 2/3 innings, Sublett was 1-0 with a save and eight strikeouts. And still no earned runs.

Sublett says he enjoys entering a game in a high-stakes situation. “When I come in, the crowd is usually going wild,” he says. “All the pressure’s on me. There’s nothing else like closing. I love it.”

Sublett seems to have the right temperament for the job. Off the mound, he is laid back and fairly quiet, teammate Noah Krol reports. “But when he pitches, he changes,” Krol says. “He plugs in right away.”

Sublett agrees. “When I get out on the mound, I get a little meaner, a little tougher,” he says. “I carry myself a little  differently. I think my mound presence just says, ‘I’m here to get you out.’”

Earlier this season, Sublett was named to the 2006 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year watch list. The award is given to the top relief pitcher in Division I baseball. Some 30 players were put on the list, including two other MVC players: Evansville’s Mark Murray and Creighton’s Scott Reese.

Swinging the Stick

Sublett is a rare commodity — a player who can pitch and play a position at the Division I level. Still, the second baseman leaves little doubt about which he enjoys more.

“I like doing both, but if it came down to it, I’d choose to be a hitter over a pitcher,” he says. “You get to play every day, whereas a pitcher only pitches every fifth day or every so often when you’re a reliever. Plus, I just love to hit.”

Last season, he hit .314 with one home run and 36 RBI. He led the Shockers in on-base percentage (.417) and was second in walks (39).

This season, Sublett is concentrating on improving his numbers, especially those in the power department. “I’m trying,” he says, “to drive the ball a lot more.”

He was having success early. Through 15 games, he hit .400 with a team-high four home runs while occupying the third spot in the lineup. He also led the Shockers in walks (14), while chipping in nine steals.

“He’s fast, he can hit for power, he can bunt, he can steal bases,” Krol says. “He can do just about everything.” 

Krol is uniquely qualified to comment, as he pitches in relief and plays shortstop. As Kemnitz noted in a pre-season outlook report, Krol, like Sublett, is a “legitimate two-way guy.”

Sublett may like hitting better than pitching, but Krol is certain of one point: Sublett is talented in both areas. 

“He’s a huge part of this team,” Krol says. “He plays second base, hits in the 2 or 3 hole every day, and he’s a dominant closer. I’ll tell you what, it’s fun watching a guy like that play.”



WSU finds a way to win, at last.

Instant Energy

Given the star power in Wichita State’s starting backcourt, it would be easy to overlook the contributions of reserve guard Karon Bradley.

Two-Way Shocker

Damon Sublett blew hitters away as a freshman, so he naturally earned a certain amount of notoriety as a pitcher.