Seeking scholie, Coug catcher may transfer

JAY PONCIANO, perhaps the most surprising contributor to Washington State's surprising drive to the NCAA baseball tournament this year, may be on the verge of pulling off an even bigger surprise.

Ponciano said Saturday he is considering a substantial scholarship offer from Division II Chico (Calif.) State because the Cougars have allotted all their scholarship money for the 2009-10 school year.

Ponciano, who hit .352 this season and became the No. 1 catcher down the stretch, said he will not consider playing for WSU without a scholarship.

"It's just not worth it," Jay said by telephone from Palm Springs, Calif., where he is playing summer ball for the Palm Springs Power.

Baseball players are no longer able to transfer from one Division I school to another without sitting out a year. Ponciano, from Hudson's Bay High in Vancouver, would have immediate eligibility at a non-Division I school.

Ponciano said he would prefer to remain at WSU, as long as he's on scholarship. Four Cougars with scholarships (two veterans and two recruits) were drafted this year and may sign pro contracts.

Ponciano lost his scholarship last year after it appeared his career might be over due to foot problems that prevented him from playing his first two years at WSU.

Ponciano saw little action early this season, then blossomed when injuries to Alex Burg and Greg Lagreid forced him into the starting lineup. Ponciano hit four home runs and drove in 21 runs in 36 games (22 starts). He had a .427 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage.

Coach Donnie Marbut repeatedly called Ponciano "our MVP" for his play during the stretch run that led to WSU's first NCAA tournament appearance in 19 years.

Ponciano's father, Jim, said the family can't afford the "financial hardship" of paying for another year of school.

"I understand it's tough with the scholarship limits in baseball," Ponciano said. "I don't have any hard feelings for any of the coaches. It's a business, right?"

Ponciano said he was offered a scholarship at Chico State after working out in Chico for Wildcat coach Dave Taylor on Wednesday. The Wildcats, a traditional Division II power, won national championships in 1997 and '99.

"They've got a great little program down there at that level," Ponciano said. "It's got a good school. I've got a ton of family down there.

"As of right now, it's looking like it's the best fit."

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