Pac-12 Networks screen grab

Lees tells CFC what went wrong in Pac-12 loss to UCLA

LOS ANGELES – Washington State (7-10, 0-1 Pac-12) began conference play this weekend in Los Angeles against No. 14 UCLA (9-7, 1-0). In a gritty contest, the Cougs came up on the short end of a 5-2 baseball game. First-year skipper Marty Lees talked to CF.C about what went wrong.

Ian Hamilton (0-5) headed to the mound for Lees who was in the WSU dugout as a Pac-12 head coach for the first time in his career to begin the three game series. But when it came to starting pitching, it would be UCLA’s Friday night guy Griffin Canning (3-1) who had the answer to stifling the Cougar attack.

“I thought their guy came out and made some pretty good pitches,” said Lees after the final out was logged. “We got caught guessing a little bit.”

Hamilton has the record of a power pitcher when looking at his strikeout to innings pitched ratio. But he was only able to induce two Bruins to go down swinging in six full innings of work.

“They took advantage of 2-0 counts to get some base runners, connect and eventually score,” said Lees.

After falling behind 2-0 by the end of the 3rd inning, Cougar DH Weston Hatten stepped up against Canning for the third time to lead off the seventh inning. With a smooth swing, Hatten launched a Canning fastball into the cool Los Angeles evening which would sail over the left field wall. WSU was not only back within a run, they had finally rocked the Bruin starter. But following a solid single to left by Stephan Van Horn, the next three Cougs were dispatched.

The Cougs never really were able to get into the type of game they like to play.

“We didn’t have leadoff hitter on base. We didn’t have the right guys on with the right combination to steal and bunt and do the things that make us successful at the plate,“ said Lees.

With Hamilton going six innings, there was an opportunity for the WSU bullpen to shine. And they did. Both Trenton Dupre pitching the 7th and Davis Ballie coming in the 8th forced up a pair of zeroes on the scoreboard and did their job by shutting down the UCLA offense to keep the game in reach.

Showing they came to play till the end, Washington State brought the winning run to the plate in the top of the ninth after earning three walks from Bruin closer Brian Gadsby. Trek Stemp jumped on a Gadsby fastball driving it deep to right field. Not deep enough though as Eric Filia had just enough of a jump to run the ball down and record the final out.

Lees was clear in his assessment of his ball club.

“They scrap. They grind. They never quit. That’s what I really appreciate out of them. They will get rewarded because of it at some point,” said Lees.

When it came to reflecting on this game and looking forward, Lees was unflinching.

“I thought we competed to the end as we’ve done all season. I think we’ll come back to win this series. There’s no doubt in my mind,” said Lees.

WSU takes on UCLA at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

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