Cougs put a jolt into once-dim playoff hopes

PULLMAN -- There IS life after death. Need proof? Look no further than the 2011 Washington State baseball team. The Cougars, whose post-season hopes were hooked up to a feeding tube a week ago, extended their season-high winning streak to five before dropping a 6-5 decision to Washington on Sunday. The Cougs beat the Dawgs on Friday and Saturday to clinch their first Pac-10 series win of the year.

The victories enabled WSU to switch places with Washington and move into ninth place.

Ninth place and a 5-13 league record may not be cause for headlines, but the Cougars have the same number of Pac-10 wins as eighth-place Oregon. That's significant, because eight Pac-10 teams played in the NCAA tournament last year, and the Pac-10 is loaded once again.

"Hopefully, the selection committee will like what we've done in the later half of the season," WSU third baseman Matt Argyropoulos said.

Ten of WSU's next 11 games are home contests, and none of the 15 remaining games involve Top 25 opponents. The Cougars have one-third (nine games) of the Pac-10 season left.

"If we get a couple more five-game win streaks down the road, it gives us a chance to keep breathing and staying alive," coach Donnie Marbut said.

If the 19-20 Cougars wind up one game short in their bid for a third straight NCAA appearance, they'll be kicking themselves for losing Sunday before 853 sun-kissed spectators at Bailey-Brayton Field.

The Cougars chased Washington starter Austin Voth after two innings, led 3-1 after three innings, then pulled within one run in the bottom of the ninth when redshirt freshman Adam Nelubowich sliced a pinch-hit, two-run double down the left-field line.

Washington freshman Tyler Kane came on in relief to face senior shortstop Cody Bartlett, WSU's leading hitter. Bartlett worked the count to 2-and-0, then pulled a hard-hit grounder down the third-base line. Troy Scott speared the ball behind third and, after making his third throwing error of the game earlier in the inning, fired a perfect one-hop throw off the artificial turf to first base to end the game.

"If we play better defense today and do things a little bit differently, five runs should have been enough to win the game. But things happen," said Argyropoulos, who was erased on a double play after ripping the first pitch of the ninth inning for a single. "We did fight to come back. We just didn't have quite enough to get it done."

The Cougars' only error came in the first inning and did not cause any damage. However, some catchable fly balls -- tough plays, but catchable -- fell untouched in the outfield. Also, Washington stole second three times in as many tries. The Huskies ranked among the worst teams in the nation coming into the day with just 12 steals in 28 attempts.

The young, rebuilding Huskies (13-27, 4-11) did what they could to help the Cougars stay in the game. The Huskies made four errors and left 13 men on base, and two others were tagged out while trying to score in the seventh inning.Washington did outhit WSU 15-8 -- sophomore left fielder Joe Meggs, the son of coach Lindsay Meggs, had his fourth straight three-hit game -- and freshmen Willy Reel, Spencer Rogers and Ryan Wiggins delivered key hits in the final three innings. Crafty senior Jacob Clem relieved Voth and retired 13 consecutive batters at one point before making way for Kane, who recorded his first save.

"Credit to Clem," Marbut said. "He shut us down for four or five innings."

"We just didn't adjust and make sure we hit the bottom half of the ball," Argyropoulos said. "I can't count how many times we just hit choppers to the infield."

Still, the Cougars have won five of six, and upperclassmen like Argyropoulos and fellow senior Paris Shewey have been key contributors down the stretch.

"It's a good time in the dugout right now," Shewey said. "Everyone's energized. Everyone's into it. "I think it speaks volumes to what kind of coaching staff we have to just stay with us and to what kind of team we are to just respond to that and get back into it."


  • Washington State takes a week off from league play to entertain UNLV (28-18) in a three-game series next weekend. The Cougars visit Portland next Monday in another non-league game, then return home to face Arizona on May 14-16 and Oregon on May 20-22. The regular season concludes with a May 27-29 trip to USC after a non-league game with Washington in Pasco on May 24.

  • Senior Patrick Claussen, who came into the game with eight hits and seven RBIs all season, went 4-for-5 with five RBIs in Saturday's 11-6 win. Claussen's batting average soared from .222 to .293. Clausen was filling in for freshman left fielder Jason Monda, who was diagnosed with mononucleosis earlier in the week. Marbut said Monda, one of four .300 hitters on the club, will miss at least four more games.

  • Junior Adam Conley (5-5), quite possibly WSU's top pro prospect, snapped a five-decision losing streak in Friday's 5-2 victory. Conley was not as sharp as usual, and Marbut said he did not learn until late in the game that the gritty Conley had been ill all week. "I've seen him every day," Marbut said. "He hasn't said a word. That's why he is who he is."
  • Bartlett has hit safely in 20 of the past 22 games to boost his average to .323.

  • Senior Chad Arnold, an all-conference pitcher last year, picked up his first win Saturday in WSU's 11-6 triumph. Arnold missed the start of the season due to elbow problems, and as his 1-3 record and 7.26 earned run average would indicate, he has yet to remain top form.-- Shewey picked up his league-leading eighth save Friday. That ties him for fifth in a single season at WSU.

  • Junior right fielder Derek Jones took over the league lead Friday with his seventh homer, then spanked out four hits Saturday. Jones ranks eighth in WSU history with 31 career homers.

  • A win Sunday would have given the Cougars two straight home sweeps of Washington for the first time since 1976-79.

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