Donnie Marbut took his boys on the first of two trips to the Lone Star State this weekend and brought back a shiny new trophy (or at least a certificate). The Cougs swept the Brooks Wallace Memorial Classic, taking two from Bethune-Cookman and two from the host Texas Tech.
The Cougs are still trying to figure out the back end of the rotation and three guys got their chance to audition over the weekend. Sophomore Spencer Jackson started the tournament opener against Bethune-Cookman, going five innings while striking out two and allowing a single earned run. He also picked up his first victory as a Cougar. While we are not so fond as wins as a measure of success for a pitcher, we realize that they are still important for the players. Congratulations to Spencer Jackson.
James Wise and Grady's favorite, Rusty Shellhorn, pitched games 3 and 4 against Bethune-Cookman and Texas Tech respectively. Wise tossed five innings, striking out two, walking two, and giving up seven hits. In the tournament finale, Shellhorn went four and struck out six of the nineteen Red Raider batters he faced. That high number of potential missed bats is impressive.
Speaking of impressive, Cougar ace Chad Arnold pitched six strong innings in game two, striking out six and only walking one. Limiting free passes will be huge for Arnold as the season progresses. He has good enough stuff to miss bats and a great defense behind him if he doesn't.
The bullpen carried a heavy load this weekend, pitching a total of 15 innings over the four games (Sunday was an eight inning game to make time for the Cougs to catch their plane). Save for one near-disastrous inning on Sunday where Texas Tech put up four runs off of Mike Ratigan, the relievers did very well. The best performance came on Saturday when Adam Conley, Seth Harvey, and Richie Ochoa combined for four perfect innings and five strikeouts to close out a 6-3 win over Bethune-Cookman. Paris Shewey wins the inaugural Eric O'Flaherty Pitcher of the Week Award by picking up two wins in relief.
So what of that offense, which I have previously guessed would struggle to score runs?
So far, so good. WSU put up 32 runs in the four game tournament. As a team, they were successful at "clogging up the basepaths," posting .447 OBP. Once on base, the Cougs tried to mix it up a little and did so unsuccessfully, going 9 out of 14 on stolen base attempts (Here is a great explanation of stolen base success). However, in the second game the Cougs went 0-3 against Texas Tech, so in the other three contests, base-stealing can be seen as benefit.
Cougar RF Derek Jones took home the tournament MVP award. He went for a 1.375 OPS, hitting two homers, a double, and walking twice. That's exactly (and then some) what the Cougs will need from their big bat in the middle of the order.
Thanks to the success over the weekend, Wazzu's overall record now sits at 6-0. That's the best start for Cougar baseball since 1988 (H/T to wsucougars.com). The Cougs have also made their first appearance in the rankings, and now sit at 28th (Take that SE Louisiana!) in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's poll.
The Cougs will look to extend their winning streak this weekend when they come home to Pullman for a four-game set against the University of Utah. The series starts off with a scheduled doubleheader on Friday.