This Week in Cougar Baseball

PAC-12 PLAY resumes for the Cougar baseball team on Friday when they open a three-game series at Utah. The Cougars are aiming to win their third straight Pac-12 series -- and every series is critical the rest of the way if Washington State wants to climb into the postseason discussion.

The postseason is frankly a long shot right now - the Cougars are 21-18 overall, 5-10 in the Pac-12. But the Cougs also have 16 Pac-12 games remaining, and if they continue the hot streak and keep winning series, well, stay tuned.

Five Pac-12 teams are likely to receive postseason bids at the moment: UCLA, USC, ASU, Oregon State and Cal. The Cougs are three games behind fifth-place OSU in the Pac-12 standings.

The Utes are 13-23 and 5-10 in conference play. WSU hasn't been on the road since the first week of April, having just finished a nine-game home stand in which they went 7-2.

The road hasn't been easy for the Cougars this season. They are 4-9 away from Bailey-Brayton Field.

The Cougs will open Friday with Sean Harnett on the mound, followed by staff ace Joe Pistorese (pictured above) on Saturday, with the starter TBD on Sunday.

"He's been all that we could hope for," WSU pitching coach Gregg Swenson says of Pistorese. "He's given us a chance to win in every one of his starts. He usually can go a full performance for us."

In his last outing against San Jose State, Pistorese threw seven innings of two-run ball and in the process passed Robert Ramsey (1993-96) for the WSU career lead in innings pitched. The left-hander from Montana now has pitched 331 innings in his Cougar career.

Pistorese is 6-3 in 10 starts this season with a 2.71 ERA and has hurled four complete games. Twice this month he has been named Pac-12 pitcher of the week.

Swenson said Pistorese has adjusted well to the different ball that is now used in the college ranks. The ball has flatter seams and although that allows for more home runs, it also allows pitchers to create more spin. Pistorese has imparted that extra spin on his breaking balls, Swenson said.

Pistorese also has a better fastball this season -- if he had that caliber of fastball last year the big leagues probably would have lured Pistorese away from the Cougars, Swenson said. As it was, he made the decision not to enter the draft and to return for his senior season.

"He's done his part as far as being a great college pitcher. He's put himself in a position where I think he's going to be a pretty good draft pick this year even though maybe he doesn't show up on the preseason watch list," Swenson said.

At the plate, senior infielder Ian Sagdal remains the Cougars' top hitter, batting .336 and leading the club in hits (47), runs (26), home runs (4) and slugging percentage (.529).

The Utes will probably take heart in the fact that this weekend's series is at home. They are 6-5 in Salt Lake City compared to 7-14 on the road.

They have also lost three of their last four games, including two of three against Stanford last weekend. Stanford, at 4-11 in conference play, is in last place in the Pac-12.

The Utes' team batting average of .261 is in the middle of the Pac-12, but they are near the bottom in slugging percentage and on-base percentage. Even worse is their production. Utah ranks last in the conference in runs scored.

Putting the game in motion and bunting are big parts of what the Utes do offensively. They are second in the Pac-12 in stolen bases with 51.

On the mound, none of Utah's pitchers has an ERA below 3.00 and only one -- projected Sunday starter Jayson Rose -- has an ERA under 4.00.

The teams play at 11 a.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. Sunday (all times PT). None of the games are televised but a free stream out of Utah is available on the WSU official site.

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Following the Utah series, the Cougars will fly to Seattle for a single game, Monday at 7 p.m., against the Huskies. The Cougs then return for a six-game home stand against Arizona and Oregon.

  • Former WSU pitcher Connor Lambert (2007-10) is in his first season as Utah's Director of Baseball Operations.

  • Marbut started six freshmen in three of last weekend's games with San Jose State and five in the fourth game.

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