Everyone knows the Pac-12 is one of the nation's toughest baseball conferences, so teams that want to make a move into the postseason better take care of business in the non-conference portion of the schedule. While WSU got off to a rocky start in the opening series of the year, dropping two of three, the Cougs have righted the ship in a big way after sweeping Eastern Michigan then taking three of four from Cal State-Northridge over the weekend.
It's not quite as satisfying as a second consecutive four-game sweep would have been, but winning seven of eight against what should have been inferior competition is about as much as anyone could reasonably ask for, and the Cougs gave it.
"We didn't play good defense today," Cougar Head Coach Donnie Marbut said after the loss on Sunday. "We also made some mistakes running the bases and didn't do enough at the plate. We feel pretty good about a 7-1 homestand, but it's not 8-0."
Yale Rosen 7-for-17 (.412), 1 2B, 2 HR
Marbut talked up Rosen's power in the offseason, and so far, the sophomore hasn't disappointed. With a pair of homers in the series -- his third and fourth of the year -- he overtook Nick Tanielu for the team lead in slugging percentage. All that worry about whether the Cougs would be able to replace the production of Taylor Ard and Derek Jones appears to have the potential to be misguided. Since it's early in the season, time will tell, but when a guy is on pace for 20 homers, you could hardly ask for a better start.
Sean Hartnett 3 G, 4 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 5 SO, 1 BB
The righty was huge out of the bullpen, throwing in three different games. We'll get to him again when we get to the most important pitch, but it's a pretty good weekend when the only real blemish on your performance is allowing one inherited runner to score. The sophomore out of Kentlake High School now has allowed just one run in nine innings spread out over five appearances.
Most Important At-Bat
Shortstop Trace Tam Sing had a pretty darn rough redshirt freshman year, struggling with a plethora of errors before having his season cut short with an injury. He's come back strong this year (.346/.469/.423), and nowhere was that more evident than in the seventh inning on Thursday when he banged a single into left field for the go ahead run. It would prove to be the game winner.
Most Important Pitch
Back to game one. Game one starter Joe Pistorese labored more in this one than his previous outing (6 1/3 innings, 105 pitches), but still was able to get the Cougs into the seventh having only given up one run. After Pistorese issued a one-out walk, on came Hartnett. After getting ahead of the batter 0-1, Hartnett promptly erased both the batter and the potential tying run with a 6-4-3 double play. Kellen Camus and J.D. Leckenby combined for a pair of scoreless innings to secure the series-opening victory.
The Cougs venture back out on the road to take on their stiffest competition of the season: Texas-San Antonio. The Roadrunners are anything but road kill, having started the year 9-3. They're ranked 47th by Boydsworld.com's ISR, and while it's still early and they might not be that good, the Roadrunners should provide a nice little road test before the Cougs open the Pac-12 season next week at Arizona State.
The guy the Cougars' pitchers will have to worry most about is Daniel Rockett. If you think Tanielu and Rosen are having good seasons, how about Rockett's line of .553/.589/.936? His slugging percentage by itself would be an awesome OPS. He's got seven doubles, one triple and three homers to go along with his 15 singles; in the entire 2012 season, Rockett batted .266 with 15 extra base hits. R.J. Perucki leads the team in homers with four.
Michael Kraft is the ace of the staff, but none of the starters go very deep into games; the most any of the three regular starters has thrown is 15 1/3 innings in three combined starts. The Roadrunners rely on a deep bullpen to see them through -- heck, Nolan Trabanino leads the team in ERA and actually has thrown more innings than Kraft despite starting only one game. While you want to get into most teams' bullpens, UTSA is the rare counter example where life gets tougher at that point. Since it's a four-game series, it's possible the Cougs could see Trabanino as the fourth starter.
The games are at 4 p.m. PT on Friday, noon and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. on Sunday.