BASEBALL: Cougs' Richards is one to watch

RESERVE SECOND BASEMAN Tommy Richards had little impact on Washington State's baseball fortunes the past two years, but the junior-to-be is giving every indication that he's ready to make a big push for playing time next year.

Richards, playing for his hometown Bend (Ore.) Elks, leads the West Coast League with a .400 batting average and 25 RBIs in 23 games.

"He's one of the very few guys I've coached who didn't play much and still got better," WSU coach Donnie Marbut said Monday. "He's worked at it and worked at it."

Richards is one of 14 Cougars playing in summer wood bat "collegiate" leagues. Marbut said pitcher Adam Conley, arguably the most promising player on the 2011 Cougars, may sit out the summer after requiring surgery for a broken pinky finger on his left (throwing) hand.

Marbut said Conley slipped and fell on grass in an off-field accident. Conley had been invited to the U.S. college national team tryouts as an alternate. A USA Baseball spokesperson said Conley has not been ruled out as a possible addition later this summer.

CONLEY HAD BEEN expected to join Cougar teammates Derek Jones and David Stilley on the Brewster (Mass.) Whitecaps in the prestigious Cape Cod League.

Stilley is sitting out the summer to rehab his left (throwing) arm after missing most of the 2010 college season, and Jones is struggling mightily at Brewster. He's hitting just .167 with no home runs and 16 strikeouts in 16 games.

MARBUT SAID HE remains hopeful that key starting pitcher Chad Arnold will return for his senior year.

An 18th-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arnold has been unable to agree to terms on a contract.

August 16 is the final day drafted college players can sign.

ALSO, MARBUT said he remains optimistic that all three drafted high school recruits of the Cougars -- projected starting shortstop Trace Tam Sing, first baseman Jason Monda and pitcher Scott Simon -- will turn down the pros to come to Pullman.

The Cougars return a wealth of talent off a 37-22 team earning a No. 2 seed in their regional in the 64-team NCAA postseason field.

"It'll be the most veteran team we've had," Marbut said. "Hopefully, they'll come back hungry and want to play for a national championship."

Cougfan Top Stories