WSU Baseball Notebook

WASHINGTON STATE'S BASEBALL team is loaded with experienced players, but a pair of youngsters have shown the way for the Cougars in the early going. True freshman Ian Hamilton pitched three innings of shutout relief to beat top-ranked Cal State Fullerton, and redshirt sophomore Nick Tanielu leads the Cougars with a .438 batting average (7-for-16).

After opening the season in sunny Southern California last Friday through Monday, the Cougars (1-3) make their home debut in chilly Pullman on Friday against Western Carolina (2-2).

National Pitcher of the Week Jeremy Null, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound right-hander, is expected to start on the mound for the Catamounts. Null held second-ranked Mississippi State to three hits and struck out 12 in eight innings in a 3-2 road win last Friday.

Highs in the 30's are forecast for all four days of the homestand, with possible show showers on Sunday. Game times are 6 p.m., 2 p.m., noon and 6 p.m., respectively. The only broadcasts will be free, live video streaming on Saturday and Monday. (At game time on those two days, fans can CLICK HERE for the stream.)

IT'S FAST BECOMING a major story and part of it involves a Coug. Baseball America reported the NCAA cleared Jason Monda of illegal contact with an agent last Thursday. Aaron Fitt, citing "several sources," wrote that the Philadelphia Phillies informed the NCAA in November that Monda and ace Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler interacted illegally with agents after being drafted by the Phillies last June. Wetzler remains ineligible.

The fact it was the Phillies who reportedly turned in collegians is creating shock waves across baseball. The Phillies have thus far refused to comment.

THE COUGARS CONTINUE to receive votes in the Top 25 poll of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA). Washington State received votes in Collegiate Baseball's preseason Top 40 – in which Western Carolina was ranked 31st – but neither is mentioned in CB's current Top 30 (which does not list others receiving votes).

Oregon State is ranked No. 1 by the NCBWA.

WSU SKIPPER Donnie Marbut said the Cougars played "great" baseball in an 11-inning, 9-7 win over Cal State Fullerton last Saturday and a 5-4 loss to the Titans the following day. Marbut was not nearly as pleased with a 12-0 Friday loss at Fullerton and a 12-7 Monday loss at UC Riverside.

Marbut has been so impressed with Hamilton's talent and poise as a freshman that he's made him the "no question" bullpen closer. Hamilton, 6-foot, 195-pound right-hander, attended Skyview High School in Vancouver, Wash.

"We'll talk a lot about his maturity and his confidence on the mound," Marbut said, "but that only takes you so far. He's got a fastball he can run to 93, 94 (miles per hour). He throws a changeup and slider for strikes, and he's competitive as heck. He's got a bunch of great things going for him."

The same can be said of Tanielu, who hit .409 with two home runs aand 23 RBIs in 32 games last season before undergoing season-ending knee surgery. The 5-11, 200-pound third baseman starred at Federal Way High.

"He can really hit," Marbut said. "He's one of the finest hitters around."

Marbut said he was disappointed for the most part in WSU's starting pitching and defense in the first four games. He was quick to add, "We're going to be a good defensive team."

Senior shortstop Trace Tam Sing made three of the Cougars' four errors. Senior catcher Collin Slaybaugh was charged with three passed balls. Marbut said defense is crucial for a pitching staff that does not figure to strike out a high number of batters.

"The pitch counts were way too high," Marbut said, "so we had to use our bullpen way too much. All of our starting pitchers, they need to pound the strike zone more than they did. On the defensive side, we need to eliminate (extra) pitches by making more plays."

Marbut said big right-hander Scott Simon, roughed up for eight hits and six runs in two innings in the opener, again draws the Friday start. Tanner Chleborad remains the Saturday starter, but Jason Monda moves up from Monday to Sunday. Marbut said he's undecided on Monday's starter.

  • Null struck out 13 Cougars in a season-opening home win last year in Cullowhee, N.C.

  • Two Western Carolina players made Collegiate Baseball's Preseason All-America third team: senior shortstop Aaron Attaway and junior first baseman Jacob Hoyle.

  • Marbut said the Catamounts are "a really good team." The Southern Conference favorites return plenty of talent off a 39-20 squad that ranked second in NCAA Division I with 71 home runs.

  • Starting with the Feb. 27 game at Cal State Northridge, all WSU games will be broadcast on Pullman radio. Marbut's weekly radio show in Pullman is scheduled every Monday from March 3 to May 12, except for March 17. Pac-12 teams are scheduled to play on television a record 74 times in the regular season. That's more than twice as many TV games as a year ago.

  • Fun fact: A catamount is wild cat, such as a lynx, a puma or – yes, a cougar.

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