WSU Notebook: Norman reflections, track, more

SOME PURELY PERSONAL views from Norman, Okla. First, the Cougars finished right where they deserved to be at the baseball regionals: Third in a four-team field. The lack of offense and post-season experience proved costly, but the Cougars had the best pitching depth in Norman, even if relievers did not always pitch up to their capabilities.

Second, the best major league prospect on the Cougars is freshman pitcher Adam Conley -- if he can develop an effective off-speed pitch. Until that happens, the best prospect is senior pitcher Matt Way, who already has a major league changeup. Honest, it's that good.

Still another pitcher, Chad Arnold, is a solid prospect, but he would benefit from another year of college ball. He's yet to dominate on a consistent basis at the college level, but his stuff is electric when he's at his best.

Third, few -- if any -- coaches in the country did a better job than Donnie Marbut. He took a WSU team picked to finish eighth in the Pac-10 and guided the Cougars to a second-place finish behind third-ranked Arizona State. Marbut did so despite having to force-feed unproven youngsters into key roles and watching two valuable seniors, Travis Coulter and Ross Humes, go down early with season-ending injuries.

Fourth, you can read about it, you can think about it, you can talk about it all you want. Still, it's hard to grasp the fact that Jared Prince made one single, solitary error in four seasons at WSU. He handled 325 official chances at four positions (mostly in right field), and his only error came April 15, 2007 on a bouncing ball on the grass that he failed to handle cleanly at Arizona State. Remarkable.

Fifth, the players on WSU's three most visible teams -- football, men's basketball and baseball -- represented the school with uncommon class and poise when dealing with the media. It doesn't win you any games, but it bodes well for their futures in the real world.

FAST TRACK: The baseball club wasn't the only Cougar team that came in third at regionals over the weekend. The WSU men's track squad finished third among 27 teams at the NCAA West Regional in Eugene. "Fantastic day for the Cougs," coach Rick Sloan concluded. "We competed very well and a lot of people set lifetime bests or seasonal bests."

Senior Justin Woods (200-meter dash) and sophomore Jeshua Anderson (intermediate hurdles) won championships. They'll join nine other WSU men and women at nationals June 10-13 in Fayetteville, Ark. Anderson is the defending champ in the intermediates.

WINS NEEDED: WSU's all-sports won-loss record would have benefited from a return to the good old days in track, when longtime coach John Chaplin loved to pile up dual-meet wins before finances doomed most college duals. The Cougars beat Washington in their only men's dual meet this spring, but WSU finishes the year 93-119-5 in sports events with one-on-one team results. That breaks down to 52-52 for men's teams and 41-67-5 for the women.

In the Pac-10, WSU teams went 40-65-2. The men were 28-26, the women 12-39-2. The only teams to finish in the top half in Pac-10 competition were baseball (second), men's outdoor track (fourth), women's soccer (fifth) and women's cross country (fifth).

MONEY TALK: When Bobo Brayton picked his all-time Cougar baseball team for Cougfan.com last week, the legendary coach selected Manny Perez at shortstop. Perez was a dandy, so let's not hear anything about Brayton's vote going to the highest bidder. Not that Brayton doesn't appreciate Perez's financial generosity.

"When I retired, he sent me a $50,000 check (for the WSU baseball fund)," Brayton recalled.

KAREEM COMING: If WSU fans need closure with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar while re-living the nightmare of his 61-point game against the Cougars, the former UCLA and NBA great will give an address and answer questions from fans June 26 at Spokane's Fox Theater.The $50 cost of admission comes with an autographed copy of a recent book on Abdul-Jabbar, an audio documentary CD and a T-shirt. Abdul-Jabbar's appearance is linked with the annual Hoopfest street basketball tournament in downtown Spokane.

Abdul-Jabbar was still known as Lew Alcindor when he set a Pac-10 (then Pac-8) record with the 61 points in 1967. Arizona State's Eddie House, now with the Boston Celtics, tied the record in a double-overtime game against California in 2000.

EXCUSED ABSENCE: Athletic director Jim Sterk missed WSU's baseball opener at Norman, but he had a pretty good excuse. Sterk spent Friday watching daughter Amy play softball for Pullman High School at the State 2A Tournament in Selah. The Greyhounds went 1-2 and were eliminated the first day after a couple of one-run losses, but not before proud papa saw Amy jack a home run. Another mainstay on the PHS team is Mike Levenseller's daughter Jordan.

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