Pitchers and catchers are only just now reporting in the majors, but WSU baseball has been at it for a few weeks now in advance of their season opener on Friday at Mississippi State. In honor of the team that very well could be WSU's most successful this year, I dedicated the opening of yesterday's Cougar Sports Weekly to them with a 1,700-word preview, a portion of which you can find below:
Returning Players Poised For A Big Breakthrough
Jason Monda, OF; J.D. Leckenby, RHP; Patrick Claussen, 3B/OF
I could list a lot of players here, but I wanted to just pick a few to keep an eye on. Monda played in the Cape Cod League this summer back on the east coast and played as one of the league's best players: The tall lefty hit .333 in 32 games, including nine extra base hits (second on the team). He also had 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts. Expect him to man centerfield on most days, and if the power starts to come around ... watch out.
Leckenby will be the team's Friday starter (as told by Marbut to Brett Gleason over at SportsMinds.org), a revelation that makes me positively giddy. I loved watching him pitch last year -- he throws a nasty sinker in the low-to-mid-90s that induces an incredible amount of weak contact, leading to a .172 batting average against and 2.28 ERA out of the bullpen last season. That he was able to do what he did by pitching to contact with the porous defense behind him shows you just how tough a time opponents had with his offerings. Leckenby didn't strike out many batters and his 4.55 walks per nine innings is higher than you'd like; if he can improve on each of those, he won't just be WSU's best pitcher, he'll be one of the best in the Pac-12. (Check out some video here - h/t to Mark Sandritter!)
I also talked a little about why the loss to Oregon was a positive development, and I'll be writing tomorrow about how the rest of the basketball season might play out, including the team's prospects in the Pac-12 tournament. Subscribing is cheap! Find out more here. When you subscribe, I'll give you a link to the most recent mailing and access to our archives.