The Washington State (21-30,8-19 Pac-12) Cougar baseball team found themselves on the wrong end of a three-game sweep by cross-state rival Washington (22-31,13-14 Pac-12) this past weekend.
Excellent pitching, timely hitting made it possible for the Huskies to break out their brooms to whisk away the pesky Cougs.
Offensively, Washington State created chances but never applied sufficient pressure on UW in any of the three games. Heck, the only lead for the Cougs came Friday night when they scored first in their half of the third inning. Credit Washington for answering in their half of the fourth with a tying tally. It was all Huskies the rest of the series.
Defensively, well, therein lies the troubles for Coach Donnie Marbut and the Cougs. WSU made 8 more errors in three games to retain the dubious ranking as the worst fielding ball club in the Pac-12. Like it or not, no team can get away with such a lack of fielding efficiency in this conference and expect to win many ball games.
Mired in the mess of losing three consecutive games to the Dawgs was some brilliant pitching for WSU.
Friday night, sophomore Joe Pistorese went out and did what any coach expects from their starter. He went 7 ⅓ innings while giving up just 1-earned run. That should be enough to earn a victory. Instead, Pistorese is tagged with a loss because of fielding miscues that allowed a total of 4 Huskies to cross the plate (3-unearned runs for those who are counting).
As good as Pistorese was on Friday night, sophomore Scott Simon was even better Saturday. Simon went 8 innings giving up just one earned run. Good enough for a win? Not in the Pac-12 when your team’s defense boots a couple of plays and allows 2-unearned runs up on the scoreboard.
Sunday didn’t go well for Cougar starter sophomore Tanner Chelborad. He was knocked out of the game in the third inning with the game getting away from WSU. Enter sophomore Sean Hartnett from the bullpen to shut down the Huskies, which he did by not allowing another run to score over 5 ⅔ innings of work.
Looking back over the weekend, one thing which cannot be overlooked is the wisdom of WSU AD Bill Moos in scheduling the final “home” series of the 2013 season in the Tri-Cities. There were good crowds on hand for all three games, eclipsing the fan turnouts at Bailey-Brayton Field in Pullman this year.
At this point in the season it would be reasonable to expect better fielding by a young WSU team. Both pitching and hitting have been better than the record for Washington State reflects. After 51-games the Cougs should be in a position to shed the label of “young ball club”.
It would be a tremendous boost to team confidence heading into the off-season if they can focus in on doing the little things necessary to win out. Little things? Mea culpa. Fielding the ball for Washington State has become a big thing.
WSU will play a non-conference game Monday at noon against Portland.