Cougs' post-season hopes hit by quiet bats

SEATTLE – The post-season aspirations of the Washington State Cougars took a hit Sunday, largely due to a lack of hits. The Cougars, continuing to struggle at the plate, dropped 2-1 and 2-0 decisions to Washington in a Pac-12 Conference doubleheader at Husky Ballpark.

The Huskies, who played errorless ball and turned six double plays – four in the second game alone -- are ranked seventh by Baseball America.

Washington State slipped to 18-22 overall and 8-10 in conference play with 14 games to go (12 in league). The Cougars play their next six games at home, starting Friday against USC (24-17, 12-9).

The Trojans have won nine straight games. Obviously, that does not bode well for a WSU squad that has scored two runs or less six times during a 2-8 skid.

Making matters worse, the Cougars helped the rival Huskies a) snap a season-high, three-game losing streak; b) remain in the hunt for the Pac-12 championship and their first-ever trip to the College World Series; and c) win the season series with WSU for the third straight year.

"I thought we were focused," WSU pitching coach Gregg Swenson said after again filling in for suspended head coach Donnie Marbut. "I thought we played hard. I had no qualms with that throughout the weekend.

"I just think we didn't create enough of our own breaks."

The Cougars won Friday's series opener 6-4, then played two games Sunday after Saturday's contest was postponed due to the threat of rain. Plenty of the wet stuff hit Seattle within an hour of the scheduled game time Saturday.

The rain held off Sunday, but WSU's offense remained soggy. The Cougars' only run came on a wild pitch in the sixth inning of the opener.

"Wasn't much clutch today," Cougars third baseman Nick Tanielu summed up.

The Huskies had only one more hit than WSU each game Sunday, but timely hitting has been Washington's calling card all season. The Cougars … not so much. The Huskies are 11-3 in games decided by one or two runs., compared to 13-11 for WSU.

"We're not hitting enough where we get those breaks," Swenson said. "That's what good teams do.

"They (the Huskies) did a good job. All four of their runs today came with two out."

Actually, only three of Washington's runs were generated with two out, but who's counting? The Huskies have been dealing with some hitting woes of their own of late, and WSU's bullpen threw a combined five innings of shutout ball two days after blanking the Huskies for 3 2-3 innings.

"The pitching, it was good," Tanielu said. "They filled up the strike zone."

Tanner Chleborad (2-5) was stuck with the loss in the first game despite giving up just six hits and two runs (one earned) in 7 1-3 innings. Left-hander Jason Monda (1-5) was pulled after getting hit hard for 3 2-3 innings in the nightcap – but he also gave up just two runs.

Tanielu was outstanding in the field all weekend – "He played a great hot corner," Swenson said – but his high throw to first on a routine play in the fifth inning resulted in an error that led to Washington's second run in the opener.

Tanielu saved a run the previous inning when he dove to snare a vicious grounder down the line by Jack Meggs, then threw to first for the third out. He then led off the fifth with a double, but he was stranded at third when Tyler Davis (9-1) retired the next three batters, starting with a towering Ben Roberts fly ball to right that easily would have cleared the fence if not for a strong cross-wind. Brian Wolfe may have saved a homer with a leaping catch at the wall.

Davis, who has won his last eight decisions, tied Oregon State's Jeff Gold for the league lead in wins. Closer Troy Rallings picked up saves in both games before a chilled audience of 1,395.

The Huskies (29-10-1, 16-5) won the season series with WSU for the third straight year. The Huskies, who have won all seven of their Pac-12 series this season, are percentage points behind first-place Oregon State. The Cougars occupy seventh place.

Marbut, suspended by the Pac-12 after a heated confrontation with umpires April 18 at Oregon, has one game left on his six-game suspension.

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