Diamond Dawgs outrun Cougs, 11-8

Kyle Larsen and Mike Wagner hit back to back home runs to highlight a four run fifth inning as the Huskies rallied to defeat arch rival Washington State 11-8 in the opener of a three game non conference series at Husky Ballpark on a chilly, rainy Friday night.

Trailing 4-3, Greg Isaacson led off the bottom of the fifth for the Huskies with a walk, and after looking at two balls and a strike from Cougar starting pitcher Bryce Chamberlin, Larsen stroked the next pitch over the right field wall for his sixth home run of the season and a 5-4 lead. Three pitches later, Wagner hit his fifth home run of the season over the left field wall to give Washington a 6-4 lead. After Taylor Johnson took a called third strike for the first out of the inning, John Otness tripled over the glove of center fielder Zapper McGrath and scored on a double by Chad Boudon over the head of left fielder Steve Mortimer.

328 fans braved the elements and endured a 51 minute rain delay prior to the start of the game, and when the game finally began, it did so in bizarre fashion. Husky starting pitcher and ace Sean White recorded four strikeouts in the first inning, and looked as if he had struck out the side when he got third Cougar batter Derek Bruce swinging. However, catcher Aaron Hathaway let the ball get away from him for a passed ball, and Bruce reached base safely. Then cleanup batter Grant Richardson singled to center, Simi Reynolds failed to field the ball, allowing Bruce to score all the way from first and Richardson to reach second.

Just as they did in their first home series of the season against Gonzaga, the Huskies fell behind, but unlike the series against the Bulldogs, they got on the board in their first at-bats of the game, and took a 2-1 lead. Isaacson walked with one out, and Larsen singled. Both runners advanced a base on a wild pitch, and after Wagner struck out, Taylor Johnson singled just inside first base to plate Isaacson and Larsen.

The Cougars tied the game in the top of the second without the benefit of a hit. Simi Reynolds dropped Jeff LaRue's routine fly ball to center for a two base error leading off the inning, and LaRue scored on a ground out by Jon Baeder. Then, the Cougars got four consecutive singles from Bruce, Richardson, Bruce Jacobsen, and LaRue in the third inning to take a 4-2 lead. They could have done even more damage, but third baseman Otness dove to his left to spear a ground ball by Jay Miller and fired a perfect one hop strike to Larsen at first base to retire the Cougar leadoff batter. Then, with LaRue at first and Jacobsen aboard at third, White picked LaRue off first, and shortstop Tila Reynolds threw out Jacobsen attempting to steal home.

Washington had a chance to cut the deficit to one in the bottom of the third as Larsen got hit by a pitch and Otness doubled over the head of right fielder Miller, but LaRue threw Larsen out attempting to score from first on the hit.

The Huskies did get a run closer in the fourth as Hathaway got hit by a pitch, moved to second on a sacrifice by Simi Reynolds, and scored when Tila Reynolds dropped a soft single between four Cougars in shallow right field.

After taking a 7-4 lead with their four runs in the fifth, the Huskies made it 10-4 with three runs in the sixth. Tila Reynolds and Isaacson scored on wild pitches, and Larsen scored on Taylor Johnson's ground out to shortstop.

The Cougars would not go away, and cut the Husky lead in half with three runs in the seventh against reliever Scott Robertson. Pinch hitter Justin Hart tripled to right center and scored on a single by Miller. Then, after Robert Stahlke walked, Bruce and Richardson hit consecutive singles to plate two more runs. The Cougars still had runners on at first and second when Jacobsen hit a grounder to Otness at third. He stepped on the base to force Bruce at third and then threw to Larsen to retire Jacobsen for the double play. Even though it seemed like a routine double play, the two outs seemed to really settle down Robertson on the mound, as he got LaRue to hit a harmless ground ball to Tila Reynolds at shortstop for the final out of the inning.

Washington added a very valuable insurance run in the bottom of the eighth and took an 11-7 lead when Larsen led off with a hit by pitch, moved to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a passed ball, and scored on another wild pitch by third Cougar pitcher Nick Kenyon.

The Cougars gave the Huskies one final scare in the the top of the ninth, getting to third Husky pitcher Trent Baysinger for a run on a single by Bruce and a double by Richardson. They could have scored more, but once again, the Huskies minimized the damage with some tremendous defense. Brent Lillibridge, replacing Simi Reynolds in center field, raced into left center to make a backhanded diving catch on a line drive by Jay Miller.

On the mound, White earned his first victory of the season for the Huskies and improved his record to 1-3. He pitched six innings, allowing only two earned runs on five hits and one walk while striking out seven. After Baysinger got himself into a jam in the top of the ninth, closer Will Fenton retired Jacobsen on a groundout to second baseman Isaacson for the final out of the game and his third save of the season. For the Cougars, Chamberlin suffered his first loss of the season to drop to 2-1, allowing eight runs, all earned, on 11 hits and three walks while striking out four.

With the victory the Huskies improved to 7-6 for the season, while the Cougars dropped to 3-11. The two teams return to the diamond at Husky Ballpark for the middle game of the series on Saturday at 1 p.m.

NOTE: Husky third baseman John Otness had a chance not only to hit for the cycle, but to hit for a natural one. He singled in the first, doubled in the third, and tripled in the fifth. Unfortunately, he could not complete it with a home run. He flied out to right in the sixth and struck out looking in the eighth.

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