WSU’s Dan Spencer talks baseball recruiting with CF.C

THE CHALLENGE facing Marty Lees at Washington State is building a baseball program that is competitive year-in and year-out, with trips to the NCAA Tournament on an annual basis. That means recruiting. A key component to effective recruiting is tied to contacts and because much of his coaching career has been in the Northwest, Dan Spencer’s extensive network is key to that goal.

“A lot of those (coaches) are still doing it that were there eight years ago when I was at Oregon State. That’s been good,” said Spencer, the Cougs’ associate head coach and pitching coach.

Having spent 11 years and two coaching stints in Corvallis, there is a natural comparison with Pullman.

“They’re very similar, similar type of folks,” said Spencer. “(They’re) just college towns. The people that live there all the time think it’s great when the kids are gone because then you can get into every restaurant. Pullman is a place that you’ve got to be going there to get there. That’s awesome.”

Another positive Spencer was quick to point out about his recruiting trips is the airport.

“A very convenient airport,” said Spencer. “Four flights a day to Seattle. That makes things nice, especially in the winter when you have to get over the pass and not have to deal with the drive part of it.”

When it comes to the job at hand, he is confident the young arms on the WSU roster will develop into Pac-12 caliber pitchers.

“Our veterans, our old guys, are sophomores,” said Spencer. “It’s a very talented group. Every day we go to the ballpark, we’re trying to win a game. We also understand that the more times you can get guys touches and get them in the game will be bricks that will build a foundation that will be good down the road. They’re going to be something.”

With a record of 9-16, including 2-7 in the Pac-12, the patience required to develop a solid pitching staff has led to frustration for some Cougar fans this season.

“We’re a work in progress – 75 percent of the innings thrown last year, those guys are gone,” said Spencer. “There was an older pitching staff. Four seniors, two juniors and those guys aren’t here. It’s hard to simulate game experience unless you’re in games.

“We’ve got to keep it simple. We’ve got to make adjustments in two pitches, not fifteen pitches because it could be too late. You’re not dealing with guys that have had 50 or 60 appearances, like I said, our old guys are sophomores. (Ryan) Walker is a stud. (Scotty) Sunich is a lefty sophomore. Those are the guys who are our rocks down in the bullpen.”

Spencer summed things up for this pitching staff in terms that would describe the entire Cougar baseball team.

“We’re going to get better,” he said.

Spencer, a native of Vancouver, Wash., jumped at the chance to return to the Northwest when Lees came calling. His wife Susie is from Corvallis and their oldest son was born in Federal Way. Two of the Spencer’s three children have made the move to the Palouse. Their oldest son, Wade, is a junior at New Mexico. Logan is a senior at Pullman High.

“I’m excited, It’s nice to be back in the Northwest,” said Spencer. “(Logan) was excited about coming back to the Northwest. He thought that was cool and didn’t want to go any further south because he didn’t care for it.”

Their 12-year old daughter Elizabeth is fitting right in.

“She’s pretty good just about anywhere,” said Spencer.

Proximity to the Snake River has been another plus for the Spencer family.

“We went down there and did some fishing -- caught a steelhead in November, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. That was cool,” said Spencer.

The Cougs will make the short trek up to Spokane Tuesday to take on regional rival Gonzaga in a game scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Television coverage will be provided locally by SWX. You can tune in to hear the radio broadcast on the IMG Networks with Matt Chazanow calling the game.

Spencer brings a robust level of coaching talent to the WSU staff. Following just one year as an assistant at Tacoma CC, he was tapped as the head coach for Green River CC in Auburn, WA, back in 1992. Twice in his five seasons leading the Gators, Spencer was named NWAACC Coach of the Year. Pat Casey added him to the Oregon State staff prior to the 1997 season as an assistant. He was promoted to associate head coach/pitching coach for the Beavers in 2004. Oregon State made three consecutive trips to Omaha for the College World Series winning back-to-back titles in 2006-2007. Spencer then moved on to Texas Tech as heir apparent to head coach Larry Hays. He became the Red Raiders head coach when Hays retired in June of 2008. In October 2008, Spencer was named the 2007 Collegiate Baseball Magazine National College Pitching Coach of the Year. Unable to get Tech back to the NCAA Tournament while posting a winning record of 115-112 coupled with a poor showing in the Big-12, Spencer was dismissed in 2012. He moved on to become the pitching coach at New Mexico. Under his guidance during his final season in Albuquerque the Lobos staff posted a 4.23 ERA for the season, their lowest since 1977.


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