This week in Cougar baseball

WASHINGTON STATE has two more series to play in the 2015 season and their opponents are like night and day. First up is a three-game set against No. 12 Arizona State whose 15-9 conference record has them tied for second in the Pac-12 standings.

Since a four-game winning streak between April 17-24, the Cougars (27-23, 9-15) have not been able to find any traction and a postseason bid looks all but impossible. After their winning streak was snapped, the Cougs have gone 5-5 (including yesterday's win over Portland) and they've left some winnable games on the field.

Washington State's big hitter, senior Ian Sagdal (pictured above), showed once again why he will be missed next season. He drove in three runs, stole three bases, and walked three times in that 7-3 win over Portland.

Runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI's, you name it. Sagdal is leading the team in nearly every offensive category this season. Granted, there are a lot of new faces on the roster this year, but Sagdal has been one of the few big bats the Cougs can consistently count on.

Still, J.J. Hancock has emerged as a viable replacement for senior catcher P.J. Jones next season. Hancock is batting .282 with eight RBI's in 30 games this season, including seven starts. He filled in nicely when Jones was injured earlier this year.

Daniel Fredrickson and Derek Chapman are two outfielders who have stepped up during their rookie year with the team. Both are now batting above .280, and they both have OBP's above .360.

The week ahead: The Cougars face an Arizona State team that has the Pac-12's second best batting average (.298). That isn't the whole story, though.

The Sun Devils have found a way to win despite a 4.16 ERA. They also have allowed opponents to hit .269 which is near the bottom of the conference, too.

To make up for the pitching, the Sun Devils score about 5.5 runs per game. Their team batting average becomes even more significant when looking at their slugging percentage (.414). That number is tied for third-best in the conference, meaning when they hit it, they hit it on the screws.

The team ERA might not jump off the page but the Sun Devils know how to shut it down when they have a lead. ASU leads the Pac-12 in saves with 16 and 13 of those have come from Ryan Burr. The junior right-hander owns a 2.80 ERA and is 7-2 this season in 28 appearances.

Burr has 61 strikeouts, which is the second-highest total on the team. To put that in perspective, the team leader is starter Ryan Kellogg (7-1, 13 starts, 3.79 ERA). Kellogg has pitched 92 2/3 innings this season and has struck out 67 batters. Burr has only pitched 35 1/3 innings to reach his strikeout total.

The key in this series will be to jump on ASU in the early innings. After that, it's hold on time.

The Cougars should put the same pressure on the Sun Devils. Sophomore closer Ian Hamilton has 12 saves for WSU, and is holding opponents to a .216 batting average. He set the WSU career record for saves earlier this season.

The series begins on Thursday at 7 pm. Friday's game begins at 4 p.m., and the series finishes up on Saturday with a 7 p.m. game.

After traveling to Phoenix, the Cougars will return home for their final series of the year, three games against last place Stanford.


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