Category Archives: WSU Baseball

Cougs Score Early, Hold on for 6-4 Win

By Jamey Vinnick

It’s about as perfect of a recipe as you can get for a victory. Score early, limit the other team and tack on a few late, and that’s exactly what the Cougars did en route to a 6-4 victory over the CSUN Matadors. The Cougs wrapped up a four game set with the Matadors with a matinee 12:00 p.m. first pitch Monday and secured a 3-1 series victory. WSU gave several starters a day off, meaning a lineup comprised partly of depth guided the Cougs to a win.

WSU jumped on CSUN starter Drake Atlee right away, as Danny Sinatro singled, advanced on a sacrifice bunt, moved to third on a passed ball and then scored on a scorching single by Shane Matheny. Second baseman Alvaro Rubalcaba knocked the ball down, but couldn’t make a play on Sinatro or Matheny. Three batters later, Blake Clanton ripped one into right field, scoring Matheny and giving the Cougs an early two run lead, a lead they would not relinquish. WSU tacked a run on in both the fourth and fifth, via a James Rudkin single and a Danny Sinatro bunt single, pushing their lead to 4-0.

CSUN finally got on the board in the fifth, when Alex Hull’s sacrifice fly scored Nolan Bumstead. In the following inning, a deep triple by Albee Weiss cut the lead down to 4-2, but WSU immediately responded when Blake Clanton hit a rocket over the left field wall for his second home run of the year. Things got a little dicey for the Cougars in the eighth when Albee Weiss’s two run double off Scotty Sunitsch cut the lead to just one, but J.J. Hancock responded with a home run of his own and Sunitsch sent down CSUN in the top of the ninth for the 6-4 victory.

Freshman A.J. Block pitched well for the Cougars, going 4.2 innings while giving up 2 hits, 1 run, walking two and striking out four. Unfortunately for Block, he didn’t pitch long enough to get the win, as Colby Nealy picked up his fourth of the year and Sunitsch recorded his seventh save. CSUN starter Drake Atlee got the loss, despite leaving the game in the second inning with an injury. Atlee went one inning, yielding 3 hits, 2 runs and issuing one walk. The Cougars take a few days off before they begin a series against Pac-12 rival California in Berkley.

Loaded Bases and Cold Bats: Cougar Baseball Goes Cold Against Sun Devils (published by Alex Clark)

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.

 

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.