Notebook: Ponciano; track, golf, tix giveaway

WASHINGTON STATE'S BASEBALL opener is eight months away, but the Cougars have already recorded a key victory. Coach Donnie Marbut said catcher Jay Ponciano is back on scholarship and will return to WSU for his junior season. Meanwhile, there's track and golf news, and football and basketball posters and prizes will be given away at Hoopfest -- including football season tickets on the 50-yard line.

"We're really happy Jay is coming back on scholarship," Marbut said.

Jay Ponciano, a .352 hitter this season and a vital cog in WSU's drive to the NCAA tournament, had been considering a scholarship offer from NCAA Division II Chico (Calif.) State because the Cougars had no remaining scholarships -- the NCAA allows only 11.7 scholarships among 27 players.

Marbut offered no details on how scholarship money was freed up for Ponciano, but it may be tied in with the fact that WSU closer Jeremy Johnson just signed with the Cleveland Indians. Johnson was Cleveland's 13th-round draft pick.

Johnson, a hard-throwing right-hander from Centralia, was 6-2 with 10 saves and 61 strikeouts in 59 innings this season as a redshirt junior. Johnson graduated from WSU in May with a finance degree after his first injury-free season in college, which included a redshirt year in 2008 to recover from an arm operation that caused Johnson to consider quitting baseball. He's been assigned to Mahoning Valley (Nilles, Ohio) in the short-season Class A New York-Penn League.

Ponciano had stressed that he preferred to remain with the Cougars. He went off scholarship for the 2008-09 school year after it had appeared his career was over due to foot problems that sidelined him during his first two years at WSU, when he was on scholarship.

-- Set-up man Seth Harvey is the only one of WSU's five drafted players who has yet to sign. The Los Angeles Angels drafted Harvey in the 43rd round, making it quite unlikely Harvey (who will be a WSU senior next season) will receive a substantial signing offer.

-- Gran shines: Paul Gran, who signed with Florida last year after being drafted out of WSU in the seventh round, went 2-for-2 with two runs in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game. Gran started at third base Tuesday for the North Division All-Stars, who beat the South 8-7 Tuesday night in Charleston, W.Va. He is hitting .257 with two homers and 17 RBIs in 61 games with the Class A Greensboro (N.C.) Grasshoppers.

-- Track time: Current, future and former Cougars are competing at the national senior and junior track and field championships held Thursday through Sunday in Eugene. ESPN televises the action from 5-7 p.m. Friday and 4:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday, with NBC picking up coverage from 1-3 p.m. Sunday.

Two-time NCAA intermediate hurdles champ Jeshua Anderson will be joined by former Olympians from WSU like Bernard Lagat (5,000 and 800 meters), Diana Pickler (hepathlon) and Ian Waltz (discus). Top-three finishers automatically advance to the world championships in Berlin.

The junior meet includes current Cougars like javelin thrower Courtney Kirkwood and incoming freshman Stephan Scott-Ellis from Tacoma's Curtis High School. Scott-Ellis is a 50-foot triple jumper. Top-two placers automatically advance to the Pan American Junior Athletics Championships in Trinidad.

-- Humes hurt: Ross Humes, who set the WSU saves record with 12 in 2007, aggravated an elbow injury Tuesday when warming up to make his scheduled summer season debut with the Kitsap BlueJackets in Bremerton.

Humes, who made just two brief appearances for the Cougars this year, had petitioned the NCAA for a fifth year of eligibility. However, Marbut said Humes had informed him that "he had no intentions" of playing next season. Humes has been trying to avoid surgery for a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.

-- Tucker third: Washington State senior Kevin Tucker is in third place after three rounds at the Washington State Golf Association Men's Amateur Championship at WSU's Palouse Ridge Golf Club. Tucker is three strokes back of the leader headed into the final round, with a three-round total of 213 (3-under-par). He is one of only six players under-par, a list that includes former Cougar David Fern.

Fern opened with a 3-under-par 69 Tuesday and is tied for fourth place with a 54-hole total of 215 (-1). Several other current, former and future Cougars are entered in the event, including Nick Ellis (2-over 218; T-11), and Austin Hurt (3-over 219; T-14), both current members of the Cougar squad.

-- Autograph sessions: WSU basketball and football players and Crimson Girls dance team members will be signing autographs this weekend at the giant Hoopfest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in Spokane.

Football and basketball posters and prizes will be given away, including football season tickets on the 50-yard line.

Marcus Capers is set to join other players on the men's basketball team on Saturday from 3-5. Football players like Kenny Alfred, Dwight Tardy and Andy Mattingly are scheduled to sign from 1-3 p.m. Sunday. Rosie Tarnowski is one of the women's basketball players scheduled to sign from 1-3 p.m. Saturday at the WSU booth near the Riverfront Park carousel. The Crimson Girls sign from 2-4.

-- Leyland honored: Cougar baseball recruit Josh Leyland was named area high school baseball Player of the Year by the San Gabriel (Calif.) Times.

Leyland, a catcher, hit .506 with 11 home runs this spring. He was drafted in the 16th round by Oakland and continues to weigh the benefits of turning pro or coming to WSU.


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