WSU Cougar Baseball Preview


For much of Cougar Nation, their interest is focused on Wednesday of this week, National Letter of Intent signing day. Technically young men can sign after Wednesday, but that rarely occurs…and I quickly digress.

For this Cougar, there’s excitement and interest in another season of Cougar baseball.

We’re just a few days away from opening game. The first series on the schedule for Washington State will take place on the road back in Cullowhee, NC. The Cougs will be facing the Catamounts. And in case you’re like me left wondering what a Catamount is, here’s the scoop: “any of various wild cats such as a cougar or lynx.” This will be a good test for WSU as the Cats playing in the Southern Conference finished with a solid record of 32-24 last year. They were tough on their home field sporting a fine record of 19-7.

This will be the 10th year of Coach Donnie Marbut guiding Washington State baseball. During his tenure at the helm, 30-win seasons are the norm for Cougar baseball.

WSU is coming off a 28-28 campaign in 2012. The Cougs struggled a year ago in Pac-12 play primarily because of the caliber of teams in conference. If anything, competition will be even stronger across the Pac-12 in 2013 with half of the conference ranked in the Top 20 nationally. Here’s the top teams and where the rank:

    Pac-12 Pre-Season Nationally Ranked Teams
    #5 UCLA (47-18)
    #6 Oregon (46-19)
    #9 Stanford (41-18)
    #10 Oregon State (40-20)
    #16 Arizona State (36-20)
    #18 Arizona (48-17)

Coach Marbut’s teams have advanced to NCAA post-season play twice in the past four years. To get there again this season young players will need to gain experience and confidence in non-conference play. The Cougs will tune up for the Pac-12 without facing any nationally ranked opponents. That may serve Coach Marbut and his staff well if they can get some new faces quality playing time.

Young is a word that will be used frequently when describing Cougar baseball this season because this is one of the least experienced rosters Coach Marbut has led since taking over the reins at WSU.

At any level of baseball, pitching dictates just how successful a team will be. If experience is a yardstick, Washington State pitching measures up nicely for the coming campaign. Pitching Coach Gregg Swenson is fortunate to have back every guy who made a start for the Cougars last year. Anchoring the starting rotation will likely be big righthander from Rapid City, SD Tanner Chelborad. Sophomore Chelborad was 4-3 last year with a 4.24era in 13 starts. Look for junior JD Leckenby to be the closer out of the bullpen. A year ago Leckenby, who hails from Buhl, ID, started 14 games for WSU and had an era of 4.50. A fearless competitor, he led the Cougar pitching staff in hit batters by plunking 13 opponents crowding the plate.

Offensively, the top three players from last season have to be replaced. Look for Jason Monda to lead the way for Washington State when they are at bat. The young man from Olympia, WA is a two-year starting outfielder ready for a breakout season. Baseball America picked Monda as a Pre-Season All-American candidate. He spent the last-two summers playing for Brewster in the prestigious Cape Cod League.

WSU fans will get their first chance to see this ball club on February 22nd when they host Eastern Michigan out of the MAC conference. Their home opener is scheduled for a 2pm start at Bailey-Brayton Field in Pullman.