Lacking consistency in all phases in the game of baseball, the Washington State Cougars (16-11, 3-3 Pac-12) have not played up to their potential over the past week.
Losing the first two games of their Pac-12 series with Stanford last weekend, WSU rallied on Saturday to salvage a win and even their conference record on the season.
It’s possible the lone win in over a week was in response to a grand day for Cougar baseball showcasing and honoring one of the all-time greats, John Olerud. Olerud, one of the best college players in the history of the NCAA, was on hand for a ceremony to permanently retire his jersey number. The guys in crimson uniforms may have been riding extra adrenaline generated by 2,000+ fans on hand at Bailey-Brayton Field.
Whatever the formula is to get the Cougs ready to compete from the opening pitch to the final out has eluded WSU Coach Donnie Marbut.
"“I wish I knew how to get our guys motivated every night,” Coach Marbut lamented following a Tuesday night loss to Gonzaga (17-10-1)."
WSU lost for the second consecutive time on their home field this season to rival Gonzaga. Tuesday night the final was 7-2 in a contest where the Cougs trailed throughout and stranded 13 runners on base.
"Coach Marbut summed things up without a sugar coating. “I don’t think we matched Gonzaga’s intensity. Their starter came out and he tried to throw that fastball by you and we had pitches to hit. We didn’t many of them.”."
Two weeks ago it appeared this team was rounding into a contender for the Pac-12 championship based on opening conference play with a series win over Arizona State on the road. Since then the club resembles Jekyll and Hyde.
"“We’ve been so good and we’ve been so bad. We’re just back and forth. As a coach, I’ve got to figure out a way to get these guys to shape ready to play every single day,” conceded Marbut."
The nucleus for a successful team is in place. Washington State leads the Pac-12 in team hitting and slugging percentage. Any question about whether this team can hit has been answered.
Pitching for the Cougs has yet to find their stride, ranking 9th in the Pac-12. All three weekend starters for WSU gained valuable experience in 2012. The bullpen is loaded with potential.
Surprisingly, WSU has struggled in the field which is easily noted by their 8th place ranking in the conference. Solid defense has been a hallmark of Coach Marbut’s previous teams. Seems unlikely there won’t be significant improvement in this area the rest of the way.
The only thing holding back the Cougs is themselves. They control their destiny. It’s as simple as crossing the chalk lines with fire in their bellies and focused intensity for 9-innings of Cougar baseball.
Washington State will travel to Utah for a three-game set with Utah this coming weekend. The Utes have started slowly this season and will be looking to get their act together against an incongruous Cougar club.
WASHINGTON STATE NOTES
– Nick Tanielu leads the Pac-12 (all starting players) with a .422 batting average and .657 slugging percentage
– With 28 RBI, Jason Monda is second in the Pac-12
– Yale Rosen and Monda are tied for second in the conference with 5 home runs each.
– Joe Pistorese ranks 10th among Pac-12 pitchers with a 2.08ERA and is 4th in innings worked.
Pistorese also is No. 1 in the conference at picking runners off with 4.