WSU pitching ‘not even close,’ Lees tells CFC

LOS ANGELES – Cougar skipper Marty Lees is irrepressibly positive. But Lees was anything but sunny after Washington State fell 6-5 in 12 innings at No. 14 UCLA after holding a late three-run lead. “The pitching was not even close to competing at a level we need to in this league,” Lees told CF.C before boarding the team bus.

“We gave them too many base runners,” said Lees. “We got into the pen and they had 17 free base runners. And it was from the guys that usually don’t do that.”

Lees sent freshman Ryan Ward and his arsenal of pitches out to start. He didn’t make it out of the second after walking five of the ten batters he faced.

“Ryan Ward has been very good pretty much all year and today couldn’t find the strike zone.”

Still, Washington State (7-11, 0-2 Pac-12) appeared to be on their way to victory in the second of three Pac-12 conference games with UCLA (10-7, 2-0 Pac-12) before things suddenly veered south in the sixth inning.

The Cougar offense powered three solo home runs to virtually the same spot in the power alley between left and center at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Sophomore Weston Hatten jumped on the first pitch he saw to open the scoring for WSU in the second with a shot that left the Bruin outfielders to do little more than crane their necks in admiration. Freshman Justin Harrer provided an instant replay of sorts with a identical blast to lead off the fourth. Junior Cameron Frost joined in the fun to begin the seventh with yet another towering tater that cleared the 370 foot sign by at least 20 feet.

Of the three, Harrer might have been the most unexpected source of power. He has struggled at the plate this season. His effort certainly caught the eye of Lees.

“It’s nice to see Justin Harrer get a long ball,” said the WSU head coach.

Unfortunately for Lees, the display of power by his offense lacked the punch necessary to knock out UCLA.

“We had the chance to score a couple more runs with no outs, runners (in scoring position) and probably could have taken advantage of that,” said Lees.

The Cougs scored a lone run in five of the first seven stanzas when they could have posted crooked numbers. On a day when Cougar pitchers couldn’t locate the strike zone, five runs just wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t a game where every WSU hurler was ineffective. Lees was quick to point to the fine job turned in by one of his relievers.

“I thought (Trenton) Dupre (pictured above) did a really good job. We just couldn’t extend him more after throwing an inning yesterday. He went 2 ? today,” said Lees.

Baseball is a team sport that requires proficiency in all three phases: pitching; fielding and offense. That point was driven home in Lees' postgame comments.

“We had numerous chances to put the game away in nine innings and we didn’t do it. We are a better team than that. But we’ve got to throw strikes and hit them when they’re there,” he said.

Despite losing a tough 4 ½ hour marathon, every member of the Cougar baseball team headed out of the stadium with a look of determination. Their head coach continues to believe they are on the verge of consistency and success. 

“I know we’re getting there. There’s no question about that. We will get there at some point,” said Lees.

WSU will look to capture their first conference Sunday at noon in the series finale. The game will be televised on Pac-12 Networks, and is also available on the IMG radio network with Matt Chazanow calling the play-by-play.

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