Summer Breakout Stars: Shocker DuoSummer Baseball
Every summer, a group of players makes a great leap forward in the Cape Cod League, elevating their draft stock heading into their junior years and making names for themselves in the college baseball world. This year, two of the Cape’s biggest breakout stars were also college teammates, and their emergence could herald big things to come for their program.
Wichita State sluggers Greyson Jenista and Alec Bohm took the Cape by storm, quickly establishing themselves as two of the league’s most exciting players and premier prospects, then maintaining their high-level performance throughout the summer. Jenista hit .310 with three homers in 142 regular-season at-bats for Cotuit to win the league’s MVP award, as voted on by league managers, who were clearly impressed with his all-around game and presence. Bohm’s numbers for Falmouth were even louder: he finished second in the league with a .351 average while compiling five homers, 10 doubles and 28 RBIs in 154 at-bats.
At the end of the summer, they ranked back-to-back on Frankie Piliere’s list of the best prospects in the Cape — Bohm was No. 6, Jenista No. 7. And the duo got people buzzing about Wichita State again for the first time in a long time.
“I think it’s raised both of our profiles, and I think it’s raised the profile of Wichita State too,” Bohm said of the big summer. “We kind of went quiet for a while. I mean, I was having kids ask me where Wichita State is. Now, I think we kind of helped show people, ‘Hey, this team’s for real. They’ve got some good players and they can be good.’”
Back in the 1980s and ’90s, Wichita State was a member of college baseball’s royal family — the brash, swaggering Lord of the Midwest. The Shockers made seven trips to the College World Series between 1982 and 1996, and they reached the sport’s pinnacle by winning the national title in 1989. The program remained a contender throughout the first decade of the new century, but it has made just one trip to regionals this decade — in 2013. The trappings of Wichita’s great tradition are still evident in the Ring of Honor outside Eck Stadium’s imposing, towering facade, but there’s no way around it: the mystique has faded.
Bohm and Jenista are determined to help bring it back.
“That’s a big drive for us. That’s what you want — you want it rocking, you want as many people coming in there as you can,” Jenista said. “Last year we did a very good job of protecting our home field. We didn’t lose at home, that’s the way we want to keep it. That helps our program, the culture of our program, you win for the program and the fans. This program needs to be back on top, and we’re getting there, we have the right people.”
Landing Bohm and Jenista was a key piece of that rebuilding effort for Todd Butler, who took over as head coach after longtime coach Gene Stephenson was ousted in 2013. Bohm grew up in the same part of Omaha that produced former Wichita State stars and big leaguers Conor and Casey Gillaspie, and Bohm’s summer ball coach in high school was their uncle, so he was always inclined to follow their path to Wichita. Jenista, a native of Eudora, Kan., said he chose Wichita primarily because of Butler, whose personality, energy and vision for the program won him over.
For his part, Butler knows important it was to land the pair, who were the cornerstones of his 2015 recruiting class.
“They love it here. We’ve taken it on the chin for four years, but all along, when those guys stepped on campus — really this is the first group that I had the chance to go see, evaluate and get as a coaching staff. So it’s really four years down the road that we’re gonna see some big things from players that we recruited and developed, that have all the intangibles,” Butler said. “Once we had them committed, a lot of big boys tried to get them to de-commit. The great thing was they stayed with us. I did not want those guys transferring after freshman year, so I treated those guys with great respect and teaching. They believed in what we’re doing.”
Both players performed well over their first two seasons, living up to Butler’s high hopes for them. Bohm hit .303/.346/.835 with six homers as a freshman, then .305/.385/.519 with 11 homers as a sophomore this spring. Jenista batted .326/.431/.471 with five homers as a freshman, and .320/.413/.509 with nine long balls as a sophomore. So they were already on the radar as proven run producers with obvious pro talent.
But even so, this summer was something of a coming-out party for both on the national level. Now scouts view them as potential first-round picks, and they head into their junior seasons as surefire preseason All-Americans. That’s why they are co-recipients of D1Baseball’s 2017 Summer Breakout Prospect award.
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