WSU baseball: Pitching falters again

LOS ANGELES - After a pair of close losses No. 14 UCLA, Washington State looked to break into the win column in conference play against the Bruins on Sunday at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Westwood. But the combination of a great pitching performance by opposing starter Kyle Molnar (2-1) and ineffective pitching by the WSU staff resulted in an 11-2 drubbing and the Cougs being swept.

Washington State (7-12, 0-3 Pac-12) pitchers served up 10 free passes to UCLA (11-7, 3-0 Pac-12) batters and the Bruins were more than happy to capitalize on those charitable offerings. That really was the story behind the Bruins' sweep of WSU.  When UCLA put guys on base, they came up with ways to score. Two of their three runs in the first inning crossed the plate due to wild pitches.

The Cougs struck first in the top half of the opening stanza, plating leadoff man RS junior Trek Stemp with a standup double by senior Patrick McGrath. It was all Bruins the rest of the way under another sunny Southern California day.

Marty Lees (pictured above) watched his starter fail to get through three innings for the second game in a row. Freshman Parker McFadden (2-1) has begun the season with solid stuff, including a fastball consistently in the mid-90’s, but failed to find the strike zone this time out. He would be tagged with the loss after yielding 7-runs, 6 of which were earned, in just two innings of work.

This game wasn’t all about unproductive Washington State hurlers. Credit UCLA silencing WSU bats. The Cougs had chances to rock Bruin freshman Molnar in the early going. They allowed the righthander to settle down and settle in. He retired the last 14 batters he faced including 8 consecutive strikeouts.

Lees had to be pleased with the performance two of his relievers turned in. Sophomore Damon Jones tossed two shutout innings. He was followed by sophomore Scotty Sunitsch, who might have folks thinking the Charlie Sheen character “Wild Thing” when he takes the mound, turning in 3 good innings of relief, striking out 6 Bruins in the process.

The trip back to Pullman tonight will provide ample opportunity for coaches and players to talk over what worked and what didn’t work in this opening series of Pac-12 play. No question the ingredients are there for this ball club to make some noise in conference play. It’s simply a matter of getting the job done. Clearly that is the challenge facing the Cougs.

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