BASEBALL: A jump in competition

THE WSU BASEBALL team has rebounded from a three-game losing streak by putting together a four-game winning streak, but coach Donnie Marbut isn't breaking out the party hats just yet.

"I hope they don't feel too good about themselves," Marbut said after WSU closed out a five-game homestand by hammering Utah Valley 16-2 Sunday. "I mean, they played one good game."

Marbut was referring to Sunday's contest, in which the Cougars posted season highs for runs and hits (21) against the 3-10 Wolverines.

The competition improves substantially when the Cougars (9-4) visit 17th-ranked Fresno State (11-2) for single games Thursday through Sunday. Next week, Pac-10 play starts at 15th-ranked California (10-4).

"This is a big week for us," WSU right fielder Derek Jones said. "This is going to set the tone for the rest of the year."

Fresno State is batting just .265 with eight homers, but the Bulldogs own a sterling 2.72 earned run average. The Bulldogs have beaten three ranked teams; WSU has yet to face a ranked team.

The Cougars expect senior pitcher Chad Arnold, the team's No. 1 starter last year, to make his season debut this weekend. Arnold had been penciled in for Sunday's game, but the Cougars opted for caution as Arnold recovers from an elbow injury.

A wrist injury will likely sideline or limit starting center fielder Kyle Johnson at Fresno State. The slick-fielding junior is hitting just .222 with three stolen bases (tied for the team lead). His replacement, freshman Greg Monda, is second on the team with a .356 batting average.

Adam Conley continues to establish himself as one of college baseball's top pitchers. The junior southpaw from Olympia is 4-0 with a 0.93 earned run average. He's struck out 32 and walked just two in 29 innings.

Conley is tied for the Pac-10 lead in victories and ranks fifth in ERA, seventh in strikeouts and ninth in innings pitched. Paris Shewey is first in saves with four in five appearances.

Third baseman Matt Argyropoulos is second in slugging percentage (.732), tied for second in homers (three), third in on-base percentage (.519) and fifth in batting (.415).

First baseman Taylor Ard, who also has three home runs, is sixth in on-base percentage (.464), seventh in slugging (.587) and tied for 11th in RBIs (13). The junior college transfer is batting .348.

Left fielder Brett Jacobs is doing what all good leadoff hitters do -- getting on base any way possible. He's been hit by pitches a league-leading seven times, which matches his total for all of last season, when he made 172 plate appearances.

Jacobs is batting .333 with a .462 on-base percentage that ranks seventh in the Pac-10.

As a team, WSU ranks a surprising first in the conference with nine home runs. That is offset by the fact that the Cougars have given up more home runs (10) than any other team.

The Cougars rank third in hitting (.313), ninth in ERA (4.38) and ninth in fielding (.964).

Marbut was delighted with Bret DeRooy's six shutout innings in his first start Sunday, so DeRooy is scheduled to make another start this weekend. Marbut said the Cougars have lacked aggression at the plate, though he was encouraged by Sunday's performance.

"Offensively, we played with some urgency for the first time this year," Marbut said. "Hopefully, we keep our energy up moving forward."

Cougfan Top Stories