Every team in the Pac-12 gets a weekend off during conference play because there actually are only 11 baseball teams in the conference -- thanks for nothing, Colorado, with your "skiing" team that reveals your hatred for America -- and WSU's was this weekend.
The Brown Bears (yep) came west for their one and only time this year, and the Ivy League lightweights were incredibly accommodating to their hosts. I could use a whole bunch of bear hunting/slaughter metaphors here, but I'll just go ahead and spare you the corny writing and boil it down to this: The Cougs won all four games from Friday to Monday against the Bears, outscoring them by an average of 10 runs per game.
The series win won't do a whole lot for the Cougs' RPI, given that the Bears are horrible and play in an awful league, but they also didn't hurt themselves with a sweep. And when it comes to the human element, they did exactly what would be expected of them by destroying a team that an NCAA tournament team ought to destroy. And the RPI won't be a problem as long as they keep winning in the Pac-12, which is plenty tough enough.
One nice byproduct? Seriously inflated offensive stats! WSU now is second nationally in team batting average (.335), 15th nationally in on-base percentage (.409) and third nationally in slugging (.486).
Adam Nelubowich 5-for-12 (.416), 8 RBI, 3 BB, 2B, 3B (1.200 OPS)
It's been kind of fun being able to pick a different player every week for this honor, and that speaks to the depth of the lineup that the team is getting contributions from up and down the order. Nelubowich has been all over the lineup, but the Canadian lefty has produced wherever he's been, putting up a season line of .326/.385/.512. He's second on the team in doubles.
Tanner Chleborad 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 9 SO, 2 BB
It hasn't been the easiest of seasons for Chleborad, who started as the Friday night starter but struggled to the point that he was moved to Saturday. A Brown team that is one of the worst offensive squads in all of Division I seemed to be the perfect antidote: Chleborad took a no hitter into the sixth before eventually giving up a hit there and in the seventh. The nine strikeouts are a career high.
Most Important At-Bat
Since there was only one close game in this four-game series, we'll go with a hit from the fourth game. With the game tied in the seventh and runners on the corners and two outs, Collin Slaybaugh -- who at some point will get his turn as the Hitting Star -- laced a single to left to plate Ben Roberts with the go-ahead run. The Cougs would tack on an insurance run an inning later, but it was Slaybaugh's timely hit that was the difference.
Most Important Pitch
J.D. Leckenby -- who it appears might have lost his closer spot to Kellen Camus -- came in to relieve Jason Monda, making his first career start in game four on Monday. Monda threw four shutout innings, and Leckenby threw a scoreless fifth. He ran into a little bit of an issue in the sixth, though, eventually giving up a run. With two outs and runners on the corners, he struck out Dan Massey to end the threat, setting the Cougs up to tie the game the next half inning and eventually win.
The Cougs get to build on their strong start in Pac-12 play when they welcome No. 23 Stanford to Brayton-Bailey Field for a three-game set starting on Thursday and concluding on Saturday. (No Easter game.) The Cardinal are reeling just a little bit, having lost six of seven games, with the main culprit being the offense -- Stanford has scored under 2.5 runs a game during the slide.
However, the Cardinal still bring Mark Appel to the Palouse, a fireballing pitcher who very well could be the top pick in this summer's amateur draft. He could have been the top pick last year, but he made it known he was coming back to school and instead fell to No. 8, where Pittsburgh took him knowing they'd probably only end up with a compensatory pick this year. He's struck out 54 batters in 38 innings and has given up just 11 runs in five starts. His battle with Cougar starter Joe Pistorese on Thursday is going to be must-see TV.
Stanford's most dangerous hitter is Justin Ringo, a first baseman who is hitting .339/.412/.508 with six extra base hits.
The Thursday and Friday games are a 6 p.m., while the Saturday game is at noon. Saturday's game is shaping up to be special, ad the Cougars will be retiring John Olerud's number 18 before the game. If you're in Pullman, do yourself and the program and solid and get on out the park. It's supposed to be mid-60s and sunny, so you really have no excuse to not go out and see the final game of the weekend and honor Olerud.
If you're not in Pullman, like me, you actually can watch each game of the series, which will be streamed online at Pac-12.com. You don't need a Pac-12 Networks subscription to watch. You can bookmark the link here, but we'll probably also put up a baseball thread tomorrow night with the link, too.