What the heck is the problem with the WSU baseball team? The last series against the ASU Sun Devils revealed that the problems that the Cougars face are far more than what was originally expected.
Over the weekend, the Cougars took only one game out of three from the team from the team from Tempe. While on the outside, this series looked like any other, it is what lies inside the box score that reveals the true demons of this team.
Before I analyze the games, the team has had some obvious problems going into the series.
The big problem was general defense. According to WSUCougars.com, the team has committed a grand total of 36 errors. They have played only 25 games which means that they make, on average, 1.44 errors per game. Each error means that another runner either gets on base, advances any number of bases, or possibly both. Errors only help the opposing team win easier.
The other problem was the offense. While there were games where the offense would explode for several runs, there were games where they would be held to maybe one or zero runs. With the offense being this streaky, it makes it near impossible for the pitching to do meaningful work.
The pitching is another problem, but I feel it isn’t too fair to judge the pitching when the defense puts them into positions where they are doomed to fail.
Now getting into the series against ASU, these problems are evident, along with a few others.
In game one, the Cougars lost badly by a score of 10-1 to ASU. This game was led by horrible defense and an offense that never got it going.
The Cougars committed a total of five errors in the game and only got five hits which resulted in one run. The Sun Devils were able to score ten runs on nine hits and only commit two errors. ASU was also led by pitcher Seth Martinez who went the distance getting five strikeout, no walks and not surrendering a single earned run.
Two Cougars did get two hits in the game. Redshirt Junior Trek Stemp and Freshman Mason Cerrillo both were able to get two hits apiece off of Martinez.
Game two was a completely different story though. The Cougars were able to score early in the game and keep the lead going through the game. Junior Ian Hamilton went five innings before Sophomore Ryan Walker went the rest of the way to earn an unusual four-inning save. The offense scored early and often. ASU never held a lead at any point in this game.
This game was an example of what this team is truly capable of. Thankfully, this game also gave Ian Hamilton his first win of the season bringing his record to 1-6.
The point where this series took a dark turn is in game three where WSU lost by a humiliating score of 18-3. That is not a typo, and this has been fact-checked. The Cougars lost by 15 points. There are only a few things that need to be said about this game. Combined as a team, the Cougars gave up 15 walks. That number alone should make baseball fans let out a small tear. The other is that they gave up 18 runs on 13 hits. That means most of those runs came from walks, not legitimate hits.
The series answered some questions about this team’s problems, but it raises more from it.
In this series, the offensive problems were addressed and shown for what they are. They were streaky and unpredictable. Over the course of the series, they scored an average of 4.3 runs per game, but without game two’s scoring production, they only scored on average two runs per game. That is horrible.
The other problem was the walks. In the series, the team gave up 22 walks. This takes the expression “can’t find the strike zone with a map” to a whole new level. Even though most came in game three alone, that number needs to change if the Cougars want to win in the future.
However, while these problems can be addressed, there is one conundrum from the series that can’t be answered so easily.
If the third game wasn’t weird enough, there was one stat that blew my mind once the game was over. Even though they lost by 15 points, the Cougars did not have a single error in the game.
In one of the biggest blowouts in recent Cougar history, the defense was nearly spotless.
This only goes to show how important limiting walks in games really is. Even if the defense does it’s job, it doesn’t matter if the pitching gives away free bases like they were flyers at an event table. .
Whatever the true reason for the Cougar’s struggles may be, I think I speak for everyone when I say that this team has amazing potential. With young stars like Mason Cerrillo and Ty Johnson, combined with team veterans like Ian Hamilton and Trek Stemp, the Cougars have a lot of talent up and down the lineup. There are a ton of problems that the team has to fix, and their ability to work through them will be the difference between winning going forward and being doomed to last place in the Pac-12.