Prince, recently picked a 2007 pre-season All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America, took the Pac-10 by storm as a true freshman last season. He had arguably the finest freshman campaign in WSU history, earning third-team All-America, first-team Freshman All-America, and first-team All-Pac-10 honors.
Prince led the conference in hitting with a .401 average (which also ranked 24th in the nation), and on-base percentage (.492). Prince also ranked among the Top 10 in RBIs, slugging percentage, hits, runs scored and total bases.
WSU's 36 wins were the most by a Cougar squad since 1991.
Other returning starters include junior first baseman Jim Murphy (.333, 8 HR, 46 RBI) and senior third baseman Jeff Miller (.285, 7 HR, 35 RBI).
The big loss at the plate is graduated outfielder Jay Miller (.361, 0 HR, 37 RBI) who started in all four of his seasons. He's now playing in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.
WAYNE DAMAN JR.
WSU certainly doesn't have as many top-level recruits as any of the other clubs in the conference, but it's hard to ignore the improvement under Marbut in his first two seasons. Plus, a substantial amount of talent returns at the plate and on the mound led by the two-way player Prince. The days of Washington State as a pushover appear over - now the question becomes, can they take the next step?
The Cougars open their 2007 season Feb. 16 when it begins a three-game series at Cal State Northridge.
Oregon State is the defending conference and NCAA champion, but many odservers of the Pac-10 think Arizona State and Stanford may challenge the Beavs for the conference title this time around.