Jermaine Kearse returned to his alma mater to toss the ceremonial first pitch to Seattle Seahawks teammate Russell Wilson, but the two Super Bowl champions left Husky Ballpark long before Ian Sagdal's two-out, two-run single snapped a 4-4 tie in the seventh inning of Washington State's 6-4 win.
Ben Roberts' two-run triple had pulled the Cougars within one in the third inning after the Huskies jumped out front 4-0 in the second. Clutch hitting was precisely what the Cougars were missing when they scored just seven runs while losing the previous four games.
"We came up clutch for once," Sagdal said. "These last three to four games, we just haven't had that clutch."
One clutch performer all season for the Cougars has been Ian Hamilton. The freshman closer from Vancouver, Wash., who says his fastball has been clocked at 95 mph, struck out the side in the ninth inning to move within one of the school record of 12 saves.
"That kid can pitch," Washington coach Lindsay Meggs said. "He's everything we read about."
"You have to have the mental part of the game down to a tee if you're going to out there and be a closer as a freshman," Sagdal said. "He's one of the most focused guys we have."
Hamilton, who wears a curly mop of dishwater blonde hair, muffled a laugh when asked if he's surprised about his great success as a freshman.
"I'm not sure," he said. "I got a chance to play, and I just wanted to keep playing, so I did well."
Out of the mouths of babes, eh? If only the game was that simple.
Sagdal, a lefty hitter, faced no simple task when he went up against tough southpaw Will Ballowe with the score tied at 4-4. Sagdal fought off some tough pitches before drilling a single to center to score Yale Rosen and Trace Tam Sing while capping WSU's three-run rally in the seventh.
"Through the entire at bat, in my mind, I kept saying, ‘You can do this. You can do this,'" said Sagdal, a junior second baseman from East Wenatchee. "Eventually, it just came true."
Hamilton said the Cougars' "energy was way up today." He credited a "really intense" practice prior to leaving Pullman, and Sagdal said the Cougars "got motivated and pumped" when Collin Slaybaugh singled on the first pitch of the game by big, hard-throwing right-hander Jared Fisher.
"He set the tone for the game right there," Sagdal said. "That was really important."
Not as important as the win itself. The Cougars, 18-20 overall, evened their Pac-12 Conference record at 8-8 by starting off the second half of conference play with a victory.
"It's going to get us back in the swing of things," Hamilton said.
The Huskies (27-10-1), 14-5) have lost three straight games for the first time this season. Second-place Oregon State downed Oregon on Friday night to pull within half a game of Washington.
"There's no way you're going to go through the entire season without a bump in the road, and we've hit it," Meggs said. "So we have to deal with it."
Relief pitcher Trevor Dunlap (3-2) took the loss. Relievers had been 13-0 for Washington since losing the season opener.
WSU relievers Kellen Camus, Matt Bower, Sean Hartnett and Hamilton combined on 3 2-3 innings of one-hit, shutout relief. Camus improved to 4-0 after coming on in the sixth inning for starter Joe Pistorese, who gave up Austin Rei's three-run homer to dead center in the second inning.
Pistorese gave up seven hits, four runs and four walks in 5 1-3 innings.
"He didn't have his best stuff today," Sagdal said, "but he definitely worked with it and competed his butt off."
The three-game series at Washington continues tonight at 7:35 (Pac-12 Networks), with Tanner Chleborad (2-4, 4.63) scheduled to take the mound against Huskies standout Tyler Davis (8-1, 1.54). The Huskies have won all six of their Pac-12 series this season.
Chilly, windy weather limited Friday's crowd to 1,489. Plenty of crimson could be seen in the stands at Washington's new ballpark, where beer is sold on a grass berm near the visitors' dugout.
Champagne might have been more suitable for a post-game toast to WSU pitching coach Gregg Swenson, who won for the first time in three games as the Cougars' temporary head coach. Donnie Marbut is serving a six-game suspension stemming from a heated argument with umpires last Friday at Oregon.
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