This week in Cougar baseball

THE COUGARS WILL head into this week's series with a little momentum, having posted their first Pac-12 series win over No. 12 Cal and a midweek victory over Gonzaga. But winning this coming series could be especially sweet as Washington State will face its in-state rival beginning Thursday. The Cougs enter the series 3-9 in conference play and the Huskies aren't much better at 5-7.

But recent history has not been kind to WSU. The Huskies have won eight of the last 10. The Cougars have won three of their last four, as senior starter Joe Pistorese (pictured above) pitched his third complete game of the season in a four-hit shutout and overall, Cougar hurlers enjoyed superb performances on the mound against the Golden Bears.

"Joe just put it in a different gear and he wasn't coming out and he wanted to win the ballgame. He's had a lot of performances like that. I think he was a little bit more infectious to his teammates," head coach Donnie Marbut said during his press conference Tuesday.

How Pistorese rubbed off on his teammates was even more important to Marbut than his actual performance on the mound.

"Sometimes when you have really great performances by a player, teammates are in awe, and that's not a good thing. It's actually a bad thing. You want your teammates to inspire and make people better," Marbut said.

As a senior, Pistorese is at the point in his career where he is able to balance his play with helping others improve their game, Marbut said.

Pistorese was named the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week after that performance against Cal. He is 4-3 with a 2.68 ERA, and Marbut said the southpaw is one of the best players in the conference.

The week ahead: The Huskies are coming off of a sweep of Stanford in which they outscored the Cardinal 22-3. Stanford is dead last in the Pac-12 standings, though.

That series was on the road, and it signified a trend. The Huskies are only 8-7 in Seattle, and 9-2 in other ballparks. Despite that, Marbut likes the timing of the Cougs' nine-game homestand that began Tuesday against Gonzaga.

"The best crowd of the year is always Mom's Weekend. Mom's Weekend is this weekend and you get to play your in-state rival so it's just awesome. Nine games in a row at home, I'm really looking forward to it. There's nothing better than winning a ballgame at Bailey-Brayton in front of a bunch of people," Marbut said.

The Huskies have stayed afloat with an 18-12 record, despite losing star catcher Austin Rei to injury in the fifth game of the season. Rei was batting .412 with seven hits, a home run, and five RBI's. His slugging percentage was .824.

Rei's stats look bloated because of his limited amount of games but nobody has been able to surpass his batting average or slugging percentage. His on-base percentage is second only to sophomore Zach Bonneau, who has only played in nine games this season.

While Rei sits, freshman Joey Morgan has filled in for him. Morgan owns a .221 batting average in 73 at-bats, with 16 hits, a homer and six RBI's. His .348 on-base percentage is aided by his 11 walks.

Two other hitters, sophomore Chris Baker and junior Braden Bishop, have anchored the Huskies' lineup batting averages above .300.

Bishop is tied for the team lead in home runs with junior Branden Berry. Both Bishop and Berry have three home runs, and Berry leads the team in RBI's with 23.

The Huskies are ranked in the middle of the conference in several offensive categories, although they are second in doubles with 62. They are seventh in the Pac-12 standings, and if it weren't for their pitching, they might be lower.

The Huskies are fourth in the conference with a 2.81 ERA. They strike out the least amount of batters in the conference, but they allow the third-lowest batting average to opposing hitters (.230).

Starters Noah Bremer and Tyler Davis have been rock solid for the Huskies, each posting ERA's under 2.00. Davis leads the team with 44 strikeouts. They are 9-4 combined in 16 starts and 17 total appearances.

Bremer's batting average against is tops in the conference (.185). Davis is second in that category, allowing opposing batters to hit .191.

The Cougars' offense enters the series in last place among Pac-12 teams in team batting average (.214), runs scored (122), on-base percentage (.317), and slugging percentage (.290).

Thursday and Friday's matchups are set to begin at 7 p.m. Saturday's game will start at 3:30 p.m. The games will be carried on the Pac-12 Networks. Sean Hartnett gets the start against Bremer on Thursday, and Pistorese will oppose Davis on Friday. Starters are yet to be determined for Saturday.

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