WSU Baseball: Cardiac Kids II?

THE 1965 WASHINGTON STATE football team played so many thrilling games decided in the final minutes, they were lovingly nicknamed the "Cardiac Kids." Ladies and gentleman, say hello to the "Cardiac Kids II," otherwise known as the 2014 Washington State baseball team.

The Cougars, who visit defending national champion UCLA this weekend, have won four straight games – all decided by one or two runs. In fact, all of the Cougars' eight wins, and five of their nine losses, have been one-run or two-run games.

"I've got a feeling it's going to be like this for the next 30 (games)," WSU coach Donnie Marbut said half-jokingly.

Asked if he's surprised his team has turned things around so impressively after a 4-9 start marred by several lopsided losses, Marbut replied, "Not really. I guess I'm a little surprised we played the way did the first couple weeks.

"I like these guys, and I thought they could play like this."

The Cougars are coming off two nonconference wins at San Diego, which followed two wins at Arizona. San Diego is ranked 17th in the Collegiate Baseball poll, 24th in the Baseball America Top 25 poll.

The first of the Arizona wins, the one that started the streak, was particularly impressive. The Cougars rebounded from a 12-1 thumping in the series opener last Friday to win 6-5 the next day by scoring two runs in the top of the ninth after the first two batters were retired.

P.J. Jones hit a game-winning, two-run single for his third hit of the game. Jones was 0-for-31 this season coming into the game, but Marbut had expressed confidence in the junior catcher earlier in the week.

Now the Cougars head to Jackie Robinson Field (the Hall of Famer played at UCLA) to face the Bruins. Baseball America ranks UCLA 22nd.

UCLA has won five straight after a 7-7 start and is tied for first in the Pac-12 with fourth-ranked Oregon State at 3-0 in league play. The Cougars (2-1 Pac-12) are tied for third with Washington and Oregon.

The Bruins are hitting just .254 with only three home runs, but the staff earned run average is a stingy 2.45. In 173 innings, UCLA pitchers have given up just 113 hits and 59 runs (47 earned).

"They've got some of the best pitching around," Marbut said. "They're pitching at a high, high level. They've got three great starting pitchers. They've got a solid bullpen, and they've got the best closer in college baseball (sidearmer David Berg)."

The Cougars will extend their road trip to nine games by making up a rainout Monday afternoon at Cal State Northridge. WSU returns home for a non-league, four-game series with San Jose that starts next Thursday.

WSU-UCLA Probable Starting Pitchers:
Friday, March 21 - 6 p.m.
WSU – Jason Monda, LHP, Sr. (0-1, 3.27)
UCLA – James Kaprielian, RHP, So. (3-2, 2.97)

Saturday, March 22 - 2 p.m.
WSU – Joe Pistorese, LHP, Jr. (1-0, 2.54)
UCLA – Grant Watson, LHP, Jr. (3-1, 1.91)

Sunday, March 23 - 1 p.m.
WSU – Tanner Chleborad, RHP, Jr. (1-2, 3.76)
UCLA – Cody Poteet, RHP, So. (2-1, 2.15)

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