Capital city fuels WSU's baseball renaissance

A LOOK AT THE WSU baseball roster would suggest that Pullman and Olympia are sister cities. Four members of the NCAA Tourney-bound Cougs hail from the state capital. That's twice as much representation as any other city. When you consider that Olympia's population is just 45,000 – 13 times smaller than Seattle proper and 4½ times smaller than Spokane or Tacoma – you know there's magic in the air.

The Olympia Cougs are senior pitchers Connor Lambert and Seth Harvey of River Ridge High; sophomore pitcher Adam Conley of Olympia High; and senior designated hitter Matt Fanelli from Capital High.

WSU opens play Friday in its second-straight NCAA tourney and the "Olympia Four," as they have all season, figure to play prime-time roles.

Conley, a top-notch closer and part-time starter, is 5-2 on the season and leads the Cougars with 11 saves. He has an ERA of 3.13. Lambert is 4-1 with a 3.28 ERA. Harvey, who improved to 3-1 this season in the win over UCLA last Saturday, has made 75 career mound appearances for WSU – second-most in WSU history. Fanelli, meanwhile, is hitting .316 with 5 homers and a team-leading 40 RBI.

That's a ton of production coming from one fairly modest spot on the map. In terms of the Cougar roster, no other community is represented by more than two players. Those with two are Seattle, Renton, Salt Lake City, Tri-Cities, and Coeur d'Alene/Hayden.

WSU's pipeline from Olympia is understandable. Head coach Donnie Marbut's coaching career began there in the late '90s as an assistant at Capital High.

The Oly connection doesn't end there. The newest member of Marbut's WSU staff is Spencer Allen, who is an Olympia native. Allen coached with Marbut back at Edmonds Community College and reunited with his old mentor this season following a stint as recruiting coordinator at Purdue. Prior to that, Allen was a scout with the Detroit Tigers. He is an Iowa State graduate.

THE COUGS, WHO ARE ranked No. 23 nationally, are the No. 2 seed in Fayetteville regional and take on No. 3 seed Kansas State at 5:05 Pacific Time on Friday. Their opponent the next day will be either Arkansas or Grambling. Winners play winners and losers play losers. Things will continue Sunday and Monday, with the champion advancing to the super-regional round the following week against the winner of the Tempe regional.

All Cougar games will be broadcast live on and on Hit Radio 104.3 FM Pullman/Moscow. Games Saturday and Sunday will also be broadcast live on 700 ESPN The Ticket in Spokane.

THE COUGARS ARE APPEARING in consecutive NCAA tournaments for the first time since the John Olerud days of 1987-88. WSU has 34 Pac-10 Conference victories over the last two seasons – the most in a two-year span since 1989-90. On paper, it looks like the trend should continue. Next year's Cougs would appear to be loaded for bear.

Marbut has now crafted five-straight winning seasons at WSU, including four with at least 30 wins. He has made no secret that he would like to stay at WSU over the very long term and build a consistent national contender. Word on the street is that new athletic director Bill Moos already is working on a long-term contract extension for Marbut.

NOTABLE: Washington State has turned 74 double plays this season, second in the nation behind Southern Mississippi's 80 ... The Cougs have 18 come-from-behind victories this season – their most since 18 in 1991 ... Cougar batters have been clutch this season with two outs on the board – scoring 147 runs – and no one has been more prolific than senior infielder Michael Weber who leads the Cougars with 21, two-out RBI. Fanelli is close behind at 18.

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