WSU Baseball Notebook: Huskies coming to town

WITH ONE MONTH left in the baseball season, the Cougars are in last place in the Pac-10 Conference at 3-12 … and yet still talking about making a third straight trip to the NCAA tournament. How so? A favorable schedule down the stretch, starting with a three-game series with the struggling Washington Huskies this weekend in Pullman, provides the Cougars with legitimate hope for the post-season.

The Huskies are 12-25 overall and just one notch ahead of the Cougars in the Pac-10 standings at 3-9. Washington ranks among the worst Division I teams in batting average ( 245), home runs (six), stolen bases (12), slugging percentage ( 315) and on-base percentage ( 330).

The Cougars take next week off from league play when UNLV comes to town, then finish the Pac-10 season with home series against Arizona and Oregon and a closing series at USC.

All three of those teams have losing conference and/or overall records.

Eight Pac-10 teams qualified for the NCAA tournament last year, and it certainly seems likely at least six will advance this season The Cougars (17-19 overall) can be one of those teams with a hot finish, and they carry a three-game winning streak into Friday night's game with the Huskies.

"It's the Hatfields and McCoys," WSU coach Donnie Marbut joked.

The Cougars knocked off league-leading and then-No 3 Oregon State 2-0 Sunday in Corvallis, then swept Brigham Young 3-0 and 4-3 in a home doubleheader Tuesday Monday's game between the two teams was rained out.

WSU pitchers posted 26 consecutive shutout innings before giving up three runs in the final inning Tuesday. The Cougars would tie a season best if they win a fourth straight game Friday, but Marbut is being careful not to get too carried away.

"Momentum hasn't really helped us this year," the coach said. "I would hope Tuesday's game(s) really helps us against Washington on Friday, but I really don't think it does."

Marbut has been frustrated all season by his veteran team's failure to combine good hitting, pitching and defense on the same day. If one facet of play is lacking, it can be fatal in a conference that is loaded with current and former Top 25 teams.

Marbut played things politically correct when he referred to this weekend's opponent as "a really good Husky team." Obviously, that seems a reach when Washington is 12-25, but the light-hitting Huskies did produce 17 runs and 30 hits in splitting their last two games against USC last weekend, (Washington was rained out Monday and Tuesday at Gonzaga.)

The Cougars and Huskies rank last or next to last in a number of Pac-10 team stats. However, WSU has twice as many 300 hitters (four) as the Huskies; WSU right fielder Derek Jones is tied for the Pac-10 lead with the same number of home runs as the entire Washington team (six); and Cougars lefty Adam Conley (4-5, 3 15) has been more dominant than any Huskies pitcher.

That said, Conley is 0-5 since beating Utah Valley on March 11. He has received little run support in league games from a WSU team that ranks last in conference play with a .218 batting average. Washington stands ninth at .224.

Washington's bats may benefit from facing a WSU pitching staff with the worst earned run average in the league, (5.04). Washington is ninth at 4.63. WSU is seventh in hitting (.268) and tied for first in homers with Arizona State (21).

Friday's first pitch is set for 5:30 p.m., with noon starts Saturday and Sunday. Saturday's game will be televised on Root Sports (formerly Fox Sports Northwest). The other two games will be webcast on, and all three games will be broadcast live on radio in Seattle and Pullman.

Dry, cool weather is in the weekend forecast. The Huskies' biennial visit to Pullman often produces some of the biggest crowds of the year.

Cougfan Top Stories