College Baseball

Hawks' Wehde finds home at first base

QU's Troy Wehde watches the ball go through the middle for a single in the bottom of the 6th inning of the first game of a double header against Truman State Saturday at QU Stadium. | H-W Photo/Michael Kipley
Michael Kipley 1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 16, 2018 12:01 am Updated: May. 17, 2018 12:20 am

QUINCY -- Troy Wehde dabbled with catching on such a limited basis that his summer baseball teammates and coaches suggested he'd never catch in college.

Quincy University coach Josh Rabe had other ideas initially.

"I needed to get his bat in the lineup," Rabe said. "That seemed to be the best way to do it."

Still, it was never going to be a long-term solution.

"He didn't like it, let's be honest here," Rabe said. "He did it to get on the field."

Wehde played third base and pitched at St. Charles (Mo.) West High School, but Rabe never saw Wehde in either role despite his success.

"I was dominant on the mound my senior year," said Wehde, who tossed a two-hit shutout in the 2014 district championship game against St. Dominic as the Warriors won a district title for the first time in eight years.

Even so, Wehde knew he wasn't destined to pitch beyond high school.

"I'm one of those people who loves to hit," Wehde said.

It's why he's in the lineup today, despite having changed positions multiple times. Wehde now is the Hawks' starting first baseman, hits third in the lineup and provides punch to a lineup that is capable of busting loose against any opposing pitcher.

That sort of attack makes the Hawks a threat to win the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional, which gets starts Thursday at Robin Roberts Stadium in Springfield. The fifth-seeded Hawks (39-16) face fourth-seeded Ohio Dominican in the opening game.

"If they hit, you have to find them a spot," Rabe said. "He's been a middle-of-the-lineup bat for three years, so he had to play."

That's how first base became an option.

Wehde split time with David Hayes at catcher as a sophomore, hitting .314 and helping the Hawks earn the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division Midwest Region. Wwhen the Hawks won the region championship last year for the first time, Wehde was the starting designated hitter, hitting .344 with 12 home runs and 50 RBIs.

Yet Rabe had to find a different role this season.

The Hawks landed a pair of transfers at catcher in senior Jake Viaene and junior Jeff Hightower, who were expected to share duties behind the plate and alternate as the DH. That meant first base was the next landing spot for Wehde.

Wehde split his time between first base and designated hitter playing last summer with the Springfield Sliders in the Prospect League. When he returned to QU last fall, he underwent a crash course in infield defense with Rabe and QU assistant coach Josh Keim.

"Oh, it was kind of a big challenge," Wehde said. "I really didn't start learning how to play it until the fall. I started to get the hang of it, but I'm still trying to get the hang of it."

He's committed only four errors in 449 chances -- a .991 fielding percentage. At 6-foot-5, he's the kind of target infielders like. Getting used to the position still took time.

"We knew our infield was going to be pretty good this year," Rabe said. "Even the greatest skip a throw over there once in a while. He's gotten a lot better with his bag work, picking, his footwork, when to stretch, when not to stretch. He's gotten better on ground balls."

What Wehde had to learn was to not chase every ball hit to the right side.

"The hardest play for a first baseman is when to go in that hole (between the first baseman and second baseman) and get it," Rabe said. "Early, he would chase after everything, and it drove me nuts. I'm like, ‘Dude, it's two steps. If it's two steps from you, you can get it. If not, you've got to let it go and get to the bag.'"

Wehde has taken every suggestion and every lesson to heart.

"Troy takes a lot of pride in being a serviceable first baseman," Rabe said. "He's worked pretty hard at it. We've worked with him on a couple different things. He's done fine over there."

All the concentration and effort put into being a better defender hasn't hurt his offense. Wehde is hitting .299 with eight home runs, 12 doubles and 53 RBIs. The four batters in the heart of QU's lineup have combined for 41 home runs this season.

"I'm just trying to get pitches to hit," Wehde said. "I try to drive pitches. That's all."

That's all he's asked to do. Oh, field any balls hit or throw his way, too.

"I'm comfortable with that," Wehde said. "Comfortable is a loose term. I'm still learning, still getting better. I feel like I can make the plays and help this team."

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