This Week in Cougar Baseball

WASHINGTON STATE hit the road for the first eight games of the baseball season, going 4-4, but starting Thursday the Cougs will enjoy some extended home cookin' before getting into Pac-12 play.

They tangle with UC Riverside for four games -- one each on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- and then host Sacred Heart, out of Fairfield, Conn., for another four next week.

For the Cougars, priority No. 1 during the eight-game stretch would figure to be consistency.

In compiling their 4-4 record, the Cougs won by a little and lost by a ton. They have been outscored 52-29 and outhit 82-46.

"Sometimes you'll do things to yourself as a team to dig yourself a hole, and we're not the type of team that can dig a hole," head coach Donnie Marbut said this week. "You've seen in the games we've lost, we fell behind and that's not something we can continue to do."

In the games the Cougars won -- two of them by one run -- the pitching staff allowed an average of 3.25 runs per outing. In the games they lost, the staff surrendered an average of 9.75 runs.

Senior starter Joe Pistorese, who turned in a 3.31 ERA in 13 starts last season, has been ice cold. In two starts so far, his ERA is 10.38. He hasn't recorded a strikeout and has yet to go beyond the third inning.

Marbut says he's not worried about the lefty from Montana. The goal, he said, is to get Pistorese further into games so his competitive nature can take hold.

Righty Nick Leonard, a true freshman from Colorado, also has struggled in two starts, going a collective 2.2 innings and posting a 6.75 ERA.

Senior Sean Hartnett, a 6-foot-5 right-hander from Kent, has been Mr. Reliable among starters. In two outings, he's gone a collective 10.1 innings, registered 8 strikeouts and posted a 4.35 ERA.

WHILE THE STARTING PITCHING has been up and down, the relief work is another story altogether.

"Our strength is our bullpen," says Marbut. "We're excited about our bullpen. We know it's got a chance to be really good, but it's also going to be good when you don't have to use it for as many innings."

Junior southpaw Matt Bower (pictured above) has led the way. In three appearances covering 6.2 innings, the 6-foot-5 Federal Way product has collected 10 strikeouts and two wins and posted a 2.70 ERA. He also is holding opponents to a team-low .182 batting average.

Sophomore closer Ian Hamilton, coming off a spectacular freshman season, is picking up where he left off. In four appearances he's secured 3 saves with a 2.08 ERA.

On offense, the man of the hour is 6-4, 200-pound true freshman right fielder Wes Hatten. Marbut says the Fresno product is constantly smiling -- and the reasons appear to be many. He leads the Cougs in batting average (.333), slugging percentage (.389), and RBI (4).

Hatten is the only player batting above .300 on a team with a collective batting average of .191 and one home run in 241 at bats.

THIS WEEK: UC Riverside comes to Pullman with a 5-4 record. The Highlanders have lost three straight, and have been outscored 32-19 in their last five games.

Of their regulars, seven players are batting .300 or better, with Alex Rubanowitz and Drake Zarate hitting above .400.

On the mound, sophomore Angel Landazuri and junior Keaton Leach each have a 2.13 ERA and 1-0 record in 12 2/3 innings of work. Leach has a team-high 14 strikeouts and Landazuri 13.

WSU and UC Riverside faced each other once last season, with Riverside winning 12-7 on the strength of 17 hits.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Hartnett will start Thursday (first pitch at 6 p.m.), Pistorese on Friday (6 p.m.), Leonard Saturday (2 p.m.) , and sophomore Layne Bruner on Sunday (11 a.m.).

  • WSU redshirt sophomore Shea Donlin has missed the last four games. Marbut said he doesn't have a timetable for Donlin's return, but he expects the infielder to miss the series against UC Riverside.

  • Scared Heart will be in Pullman March 5-8 and then the Cougars head to Los Angeles to open Pac-12 play with a three-game series at USC March 13-15.

  • The Cougars have 16 freshmen on the roster.


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