A 16-game homestand concludes with a three-game series against Oregon. The Cougars finish the regular season – and, barring a sensational finish and the stars aligning just right, the season as a whole – next week with a nonleague game against Washington on Tuesday in Pasco and a three-game weekend series at USC.
The records for the eighth-place Ducks (27-24-1, 7-14 Pac-10) and seventh-place Trojans (20-28, 10-11) are hardly overwhelming, but neither is the ninth-place Cougars (22-25, 6-15).
The Cougars pulled off one of their patented late-game comebacks to beat Arizona 7-6 in 10 innings Saturday, then lost any and all momentum by losing their next three games. The skid ended when first baseman Taylor Ard homered twice Tuesday in an 11-5 win over Portland in the second game of a doubleheader.
Ard, a redshirt sophomore, is one of a handful of Cougars who may be drafted next month. Two junior left-handers certain to be drafted are expected to square off Friday: Oregon's Tyler Anderson (7-2, 1.60) and WSU's Adam Conley (5-6, 3.13).
Anderson heads an Oregon pitching staff that has been much stronger than WSU's. Both teams have struggled to score runs in the Pac-10, but the Ducks' bats have come alive of late, and junior second baseman Danny Pulfer has been hitting in the .350 neighborhood.
The Cougars piled up 19 runs Tuesday against a weak Portland squad (18-29), but lost the opener 10-8.
"When you score as many runs as we did today, you would like to think you are going to sweep," WSU coach Donnie Marbut said after the twinbill. "However, we missed some opportunities in the first game. The positive is we played well enough to win the second game."
The Cougars might very well need to sweep Oregon and USC to have any chance at all of crashing the NCAA tournament party for the third straight year. A strong schedule and the Pac-10's excellent reputation do work in the Cougars' favor, particularly after eight Pac-10 teams played in the NCAA tournament last year.
Youths wearing their team jersey gain free admission all weekend. As usual, families of four pay just $20 Friday for four general admission tickets, hot dogs and sodas.
Fans can bring their dogs Sunday ($7 per fan-pooch duo). Hot dogs go for a buck, and after the game, players sign autographs and kids can run the bases at Bailey-Brayton Field.
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