Adam Conley took the hill for his second game as a starter this season. Last week he finished the sweep of the Cal Golden Bears. This week he was called upon in a series finale yet again, but this time to round-off the third and final rubber match game of the series between WSU and Stanford at the Sunken Diamond in Stanford, California.
What was different about this week as opposed to last is that Adam Conley had pitched just the day before. Last night the Cougars brought a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth and sent out Seth Harvey to finish the game after eight shut-out innings by James Wise. Harvey was unable to do that, giving up a single and a walk before yielding to Paris Shewey. Shewey was also unsuccessful at finishing the game as he gave up a single, a sacrifice fly, and another single before being removed. That single scored Stanford's second run. So who could Donnie Marbot call on to preserve the 4-2 lead with two on in the bottom of the ninth? Adam Conley of course. So Conley came in and did give up a single to the catcher Zach Jones to load the bases. However in the next at-bat Conley induced a ground ball double-play to end the game.
So with that in mind, what was Donnie Marbot expecting from Conley by sending him out to start the rubber match? How would Conley perform? How long would he be able to last?
On Sunday, Conley did just about as much as anybody could ask of him. He pitched seven strong innings of baseball giving up three runs, two of them earned, while rendering eight hits and zero walks. He struck out two batters on the day.
When Conley left the game, yielding to Connor Lambert, the Cardinal had a three runs to two advantage.
This score stood until the top of the 9th. The Cougars led off with designated hitter, Matt Fanelli, who hit a single to right field. Then the Cougars were helped by a fielding error by the Stanford secondbasemen which sent Fanelli to third and Derek Jones to first. Shea Vucinich then tripled to right center scoring both Fanelli and Jones.
This was enough to give the Cougars the lead, but the scoring did not stop there. After a Kyle Johnson infield single to third base, Matt Agyropoulos singled to right field finally scoring Vucinich and bringing Johnson to second. The next batter, Jay Porciano, sacrificed the runners over to second and third.
With one out, the Cardinal elected to intentionally walk Garry Kuykendall, thereby setting up a double play and bringing Cody Bartlett to the plate. Bartlett fouled out to the catcher for the second out of the inning. The Cardinal might have been able to get out of the inning with hopes of recovering in the bottom of the 9th, but the next batter, Michael Weber, who had produced both of WSU's first two runs with a home run in the 6th, dashed those hopes with a second home run, this time a grand slam over the center field fence.
This brought Fanelli to the plate yet again as the Cougars had batted around in the inning. Fanelli singled and the Cardinal were forced to bring in a new pitcher. Yet Chris Reed got Derek Jones to strike out and the top half of the inning was finally over.
The bottom of the 9th was not as eventful as it had been the day before, as Connor Lambert induced two ground-balls and a fly out to end the game. Lambert only needed to face six batters to finish the last two innings for the Cougars and record the win. As you may recall, Lambert saved the game last Sunday when the Cougars won in the second game against Cal. With how Harvey and Shewey pitched yesterday and the way Lambert pitched today, Marbot may have just found himself a new closer. Shewey does have two previous saves this season when Conley was unavailable, but Lambert is clearly the hot-hand. This will be interesting to see as the Cougars visit Gonzaga in Spokane on Tuesday.
As far as the Cougars' remaining PAC10 games: They will be inviting 10th place USC to Pullman for a three game series next weekend. Then after mid-week games against Portland and Gonzaga again on Wednesday and Thursday respectively, the Cougars will travel to LA to finish the regular season off against UCLA who is currently sitting in second place in the conference with a 13-8 record after finishing a sweep against USC with a two to one victory earlier today.
The Cougars have now put themselves in a three-way tie for third in the conference with a PAC10 record of 11-10. Assuming that the tie-breaker is head-to-head record, then Washington State holds third place outright, as the two teams they are tied with are Cal and Stanford.
If we are to believe what Nuss has been telling us, that seven or eight PAC10 teams are expected to get into the Regional playoffs, then the Cougars are indeed in an excellent position to do that and this road series win is just what they needed to show they can be taken seriously on the road.