WSU Baseball: Where the heck's the pitching?

IT'S NOT TIME to push the panic button yet on Cougar baseball. But WSU is off to a horrendous start and in need of a turnaround. The Cougs fell to 1-5 on Saturday but even more than that, it's the way they've lost in the season's early going that is cause for concern.

For WSU opponents, the pitch must look like a beach ball coming to the plate, one travelling about 50 mph and with a smiling stewardess stamped upon it.

The Cougs have given up tons of runs through the first six games.

WSU has allowed seven or more runs in all but one game this season. The least they've allowed has been five. Needing to set the tone on Saturday against Western Carolina at Bailey-Brayton Field, they instead gave up a three-spot in the first inning. The Cougs now have to take the next two, at home, just to gain a split against West Carolina.

A shutout, a shutout, my kingdom for a shutout.

SURE, WSU TOOK a 5-3 lead in the second inning on Saturday as Trek Stemp, Nick Tanielu and Jason Monda hit ‘em where they weren't. But it was short lived.

The Cougs surrendered four runs combined over the next two innings and, able to plate only one more of their own the rest of the way, that was that in the 8-6 loss.

Tanner Chleborad on Saturday lasted only four sketchy innings, surrendering seven hits and seven runs (five earned) to Western Carolina. He had almost as many walks (three) and strikeouts (four).

If only Chleborad, with a 6.00 ERA over a team-high nine innings pitched, was an aberration and not the trend when it's come to Cougar hurlers this season.

Scott Simon is 0-2 with an ERA of 13.50. In six innings of work, he's given up 13 hits. Chris McDowell, with the fourth-most innings of work (5.2) has an ERA of 6.35 and has surrendered 13 baseknocks. Sean Hartnett is among the few who have truly distinguished themselves on the mound at this early stage (6.1 inning pitched, 1.42 ERA.)

Simon last season logged a 3.95 ERA over 84 1/3 innings. Chleborad, a junior this season, posted a 4.24 ERA in 14 appearances as a freshman. McDowell had a 3.55 ERA last season in 25.1 innings of work. So there's hope the Cougar arms will start putting up some slimmer numbers on the scoreboard.

OTHER REASONS FOR optimism? Ian Hamilton (4 innings, 0.00 ERA) and Joe Pistorese (8.1, 4.32) this season have allowed fewer hits than innings pitched.

But they're the only ones on the entire Cougar pitching staff. And that's a bad way to fly.

Pistorese went five innings in relief of Chleborad on Saturday, allowing only two hits, a run and punching out six. The Cougs need more of that, much more, if they're going to turn around a sour start to the season.

Update: Sunday's game was postponed. It will be made up as part of a doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m. on Monday.

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