Monthly Archives: April 2013

Baseball Review: WSU v. Utah

By Nate Hanson

A disappointing three-game series this weekend for the Cougs ended with a bright star. That star came in the form of redshirt sophomore pitcher Scott Simon. Simon threw a five-hit shutout, the first by a WSU pitcher since Wade Parrish in 1999, to salvage a win in the finale of the three game series against the Utes.

WSU (17-13, 4-5) dropped the first two games of the series to Utah (14-14, 4-8) 7-4 and 2-1. Both were disheartening outcomes for a Cougs team that was looking to establish itself as an upper-tier Pac-12 team.

In Game 1 the Cougs got another strong start from their Friday night ace, Joe Pistorese, who gave up three runs, two earned, in seven innings of work. He left the game with a 4-3 lead. However, WSU reliever, Kellen Camus, gave up four runs in the eighth that allowed Utah to secure the win. It was an unexpected meltdown from Camus who came into the game with a 3-0 record out of the bullpen.

The Cougs had their chances to add to their early 4-0 lead. WSU put a runner on base each inning from the third through the eighth.  Give credit to Utes sophomore hurler Mitch Watrous who scattered 12 hits, while holding the Cougs to four runs through eight innings to earn his second win of the season. Jason Monda led the Cougs going three for five with two RBI.

In Game 2, it was the Cougs’ bats that experienced an unexpected meltdown. The Cougs came into the series as the best hitting team in the Pac-12 with a .321 team batting average. Apparently Dalton Carroll of Utah didn’t get the memo. Carroll only gave up six hits and one run in 6 1/3 innings to get his record up to 3-2 in his inaugural campaign.

Shadowed by the performance of Carroll, WSU’s Tanner Chleborad put together arguably his best performance of the year. Chleborad, who came into the game with an ERA over five, gave up only two runs in 5 1/3 innings. Both runs came from the bat of Trey Nielson who homered twice, once in the fourth and again in the sixth to break the 1-1 tie. Patrick McGrath picked up the only RBI of the game for the Cougs.

WSU needed a standout performance to avoid a sweep, and it came from Simon. He struck out a career-high six in his 116 pitch performance.

“Scott got stronger as the game went on,” manager Donnie Marbut said. “I don’t want to call it a must win for us, but it was and Scott definitely put our team on his back.”

Simon, who is now 3-0 on the season, received early run support as the Cougs plated runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings. Adam Nelbowich, Yale Rosen, Austin Pernell and Trace Tam Sing each had an RBI to lead the balanced attack. Pernell went three for four on the day.

Despite losing two of three to a struggling Utes squad, there is still a reason for optimism moving forward. WSU’s starting pitchers gave up only four earned runs in 21 1/3 innings. Pistorese continued his all-conference season, while Chleborad and Simon each stepped up and had their best appearances of the season. Wins will come if the Cougs can consistently get three quality starts from their young pitching staff. In a conference that only has five teams above .500; the Cougs are still in the midst of competing for a high finish.

WSU will look to get another stellar pitching performance tomorrow in the finale of its four-game road trip in the Beehive State. In a battle of Cougars, BYU (17-14) will host WSU in a non-conference matchup. First pitch is scheduled for 9 a.m. Pacific. The game will be televised on BYUtv and can be heard on wsucougars.com.

Baseball Preview: WSU v. Utah

By Nate Hanson

After a 5-4 homestand, the Cougs (16-11, 3-3) will leave Bailey-Brayton Field for the first time in two and a half weeks to take on the Utah Utes (12-13, 2-7) for a three game series starting today at 11 a.m.

WSU is coming off a stagnant 7-2 loss to Gonzaga Tuesday night. Nick Tanielu and Adam Nelbowich each had an RBI. The story following the loss, as it has been all season, is the inconsistency of the Cougs this year. “I wish I know how to get our guys motivated every night,” said WSU Manager Donnie Marbut.

The Cougs’ lack of focus seems to come in non-conference contests. Fortunately for Marbut’s team, Utah is a Pac-12 foe. The Cougs have exceeded expectations through their first six conference games.  Going .500 against then-ranked number 14 Arizona State and then-ranked number 23 Stanford has to be uplifting for Coug fans. It shows that WSU has the ability to compete with the best in the country. However, if WSU wants to make a run into the NCAA Tournament, they need to win at least two of three against the Utes this weekend.

Utah comes into the series on a three-game losing streak after they were swept by defending national champions, Arizona (3-6 in conference play this year). Although Utah’s overall and conference record fail to impress, the Utes are not a team the Cougs can afford to take lightly. Utah won two of three in a series in Palo Alto last month against Stanford. The Cardinal, of course, took two of three from the Cougs last weekend.

Young starting pitching is the strength of the Utes. Their pitching staff is led by sophomore right-hander Mitch Watrous and freshman Dalton Carroll. Watrous has a 3.51 ERA through 33 1/3 innings pitched, and Carroll posts a 3.78 ERA with the same amount of innings pitched. It will be up to the two underclassmen to stall a WSU offense that leads the Pac-12 with a team .321 batting average. The Utes pitching staff held Stanford to less than four runs per game in the series win.

WSU is obviously looking for consistency. Utah doesn’t have the stigma and history of Arizona State and Stanford. This is a series the Cougs should win at least two, if not all three games. If the Cougs are going to pull off a sweep, all three starting pitchers must have solid outings. Joe Pistorese was outstanding throwing a complete game despite getting the loss against Mark Appel, who shutout the Cougs. However, Tanner Chleborad continued to struggle and Scott Simon didn’t get through the fifth inning. Chleborad needs to return to his 2012 form, and Simon needs to continue to improve to solidify the starting rotation. If the Cougs can get three quality starts this weekend against the worst hitting team in the Pac-12, the end result will be a sweep and a 6-3 conference record. If not, Donnie Marbut will still be left with more questions than answers about his squad.

Game 1 (Friday, 11 AM): Joe Pistorese (3-2, 2.08 ERA) vs. Mitch Watrous (1-1, 3.51 ERA)

Game 2 (Saturday 11 AM): Tanner Chleborad (3-4, 5.26 ERA) vs. Dalton Carroll (2-2, 3.78 ERA)

Game 3 (Sunday 5:30 PM): Scott Simon (2-0, 4.18 ERA) vs. Joe Pond (2-3, 6.14 ERA)

Baseball Review: WSU v. Gonzaga

By Nate Hanson

Once again, after falling behind to Gonzaga early, the Cougs couldn’t battle back as the Bulldogs defeated WSU 7-2. This is the second time Gonzaga (17-10-1) has beat the Cougs (16-11) this season.

Sam Triece made his first-career start for WSU and lasted 3 2/3 innings before being chased after giving up two earned runs. The Bulldogs extended their lead to 6-0 before the Cougs were able to get a run up on the board in the bottom of the seventh. Derrick Callahan threw five shutout innings to pick up his second win of the season. Nick Tanielu and Adam Nelbowich each had RBI doubles to cut the lead down to 6-2. Gonzaga responded by adding another run in the top of the eighth. The Cougs put up one more threat in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded before Tyler Olson of the Bulldogs put the game to bed.

WSU Head Coach Donnie Marbut is still left with the challenge of getting his young team focused day in and day out. “I wish I knew how to get our guys motivated every night,” said Marbut.

The top six hitters for the Cougs all had a base hit, but the bottom-third of the order only got one man on base. Marco Gonzalez went 3 for 3 with two RBI and Caleb Wood also picked up two RBI to lead Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs will hit the road for a three-game series with the Portland Pilots starting Friday. The Cougs will also leave Pullman as they head to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Utes for a three-game conference series starting Friday at noon.

The Bulldogs and Cougs will play each other for the third and final time on April 16th in Spokane.

Baseball Preview: WSU vs. Gonzaga

By Nate Hanson

The Cougs return to the diamond after a couple of days off to finish a nine-game homestand. WSU (16-10, 3-3) will host Gonzaga (16-10-1, 4-2) for the second time this season. The Bulldogs won the first meeting two weeks ago 10-8.

WSU salvaged a win in the final game of a three-game series against then-No.23 ranked Stanford. Jason Monda led the Cougs with a two-run home run, while also picking up the win in relief of Scott Simon who threw 4 2/3 innings. It was a fitting performance for the Baseball America preseason third-team All-American as it came on the day the Cougs retired John Olerud’s #18. Of course, the award for the best two-way player in the country is named after Olerud.

Nick Tanielu continues to tear the ball apart as his batting average is up to .424. The redshirt freshman, who also has 2 HR and 19 RBI, went 3 for 5 in the previous matchup against the Bulldogs.

Gonzaga led that previous game 7-0 after five innings before the Cougs put up a furious comeback. However, the closest WSU would get was one run before Arturo Reyes was able to put the game to bed for his first save of the season.

Cody LeBrun led the Zags by going 3 for 3 with 3 RBI. Clayton Eslick and Zach Abbruzza each had 2 RBI as well.

WSU will travel to Utah to take on the Utes for a three-game series this weekend before facing BYU in a non-conference matchup April 8. Gonzaga will also hit the road for a three-game series against the Portland Pilots. The Cougs and Bulldogs will battle each other for the third and final time of the season on April 16 in Spokane.

Starting pitchers have not yet been announced for tonight’s game. First pitch is scheduled for 6 PM tonight at Bailey-Brayton Field.

Baseball Review: WSU v. Stanford

By Nate Hanson

WSU (16-10, 3-3) went 1-2 this weekend in its three game series with #23 Stanford (11-9, 3-3). Stanford won game one 3-0, beat the Cougs again in game two 9-3 before WSU salvaged the final game with an 8-5 win.

In my preview of this weekend’s series I posed the following questions: “Is the Cougs lineup powerful enough to scramble one of the best pitching staffs in the Pac-12? Is Stanford’s seven game hitting slump a phase or reflective of a poor hitting team? Are the young Cougs for real? Is Stanford overrated? By Saturday night we might know the answers to all of these questions.”

We got an answer to three of these questions. First off, Stanford proved that good pitching beats good hitting. The Cougs amassed 13 hits and 3 runs against the Cardinal’s top two arms, Mark Appel and Bobby Zarubin. Thursday night’s 3-0 Stanford win was a classic pitcher’s duel we could possibly see in the big leagues five years from now. Appel, the eighth overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, silenced the Cougs’ bats with a four-hit shutout. He also had 10 k’s. For the Cougs, lefty Joe Pistorese also went the length of the game. However, a shaky second inning, in which Brian Ragira’s two-RBI single cost Pistorese. All three of the Cardinal’s runs came in the second inning and it was all they would need. WSU had their chances, especially in the fourth inning when they had the bases loaded with one out, but Appel struck out the next two Coug hitters to get out of the jam. In Game 2, the combination of Zarubin, McArdle, Hughes, and Vanegas combined for seven strikeouts and only gave up three runs to a Coug lineup that came into the series averaging more than seven runs per game.

We also learned that Stanford’s lack of run production over the previous seven games was a phase. The Cardinal put up 17 runs this weekend, which is just two shy of their total production during their 1-6 struggle. The aforementioned Ragira went 6 for 13. Austin Slater and Wayne Taylor each had 3 RBI to lead the Cardinal. It was a balanced attack all weekend that really tested the WSU pitchers.

After being swept at home by UNLV and losing two of three to Utah in their first Pac-12 series, Stanford had to prove they were still worthy of a national ranking. They did that by taking two of three from the feisty Cougs. WSU has proven itself in the early part of the season a legitimate threat in the Pac-12, especially after taking two of three from then-ranked #14 Arizona State in Tempe. It’s not easy to win at Bailey-Brayton Field, where the Cougs were 10-2 before the series began. Stanford rose to the occasion and if this weekend’s pitching is a sample of what’s to come, the Cardinal are still a legitimate contender to win the Pac-12 title.

The one question that still hasn’t been answered: Are the young Cougs for real? Inconsistency continues to plague the Cougs. Manager Donnie Marbut mentioned that even in their win, his team was flat for the middle three innings. Marbut also said after the win that he doesn’t think his team is playing their best baseball. There is potential for this Coug team to make the NCAA Tournament. They have an explosive lineup and one of the best pitchers in the conference. However, their weakness is the starting rotation after Pistorese. Tanner Chleborad had a solid outing Friday by giving up only four runs in 6 2/3 innings. Still, the sophomore has an ERA over five. Scott Simon has shown signs of greatness, but he only lasted 4 2/3 innings in the win on Sunday. If Chleborad and Simon can solidify the rotation, the Cougs may get back to the tournament after misses in their last two seasons. If not, the Cougs are bound for more ups and downs as they head into the meat of their Pac-12 schedule.