This week is a good one for baseball fans all across the country. Not only are MLB teams starting spring training in Arizona and Florida, but college teams all across America are throwing their first pitches of the 2017 season.
And despite the forecast barely reaching the 40's in Pullman over the next week, the Washington State Cougars are no different. The Cougs will start the season Friday night in Sacramento, part of a four game stretch against Sac State before taking on LMU for four more in Los Angeles starting Friday the 24th. The team won't play a home game until March 3rd, when they welcome Stephen F. Austin to Bailey-Brayton Field.
The expectations are set pretty low for the Cougars this season. The team finished 11th out of 11 teams in the preseason poll (Colorado doesn't field a baseball program). It mirrors their last place finish in the conference last season, finishing with an 11-19 record in the first season under the helm of manager Marty Lees.
Highlighting the roster this season are a variety of newcomers, including eight players transferring in from junior colleges. "We do have a lot of newcomers," said Lees in his press conference yesterday. "We're excited about our newcomers. A lot of older kids that I really see doing a lot of good things for this team. But we also have a lot of kids who have never been in a division one baseball game."
But the transfers aren't the only newcomers that are exciting to Lees. In his first full offseason at WSU, the coaching staff put together one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. D1Baseball.com ranked the class at 28th, making it the first WSU recruiting class to be nationally ranked by the outlet. The class features 2 freshmen from the state of Washington, both of which turned down an opportunity in the MLB after being drafted to come to WSU. AJ Block (LHP from Newports HS) was selected in the 39th round by the Cubs, and Danny Sinatro (Utility from Skyline HS) was picked in the 40th round by the Indians (and, yes, he's former MLB pitcher and Mariners bullpen coach Matt Sinatro's son).
Another notable is catcher Cal Waterman out of Summitt High School in Oregon. He hit .574 last season with 43 RBI and was named Oregon Player of the Year.
"We're excited as coaches because we've got a year under our belt," said Lees. "It's year two. We've got a lot of new guys and we're just anxious to get them on the field and see this team we've put together."
So the rebuilding process continues for Lees in Pullman. There will be some growing pains this season, but expect to see some great things out of the Cougs on the diamond, starting Friday night in Sacramento.
Cougar Baseball Opens 2017 Season at Sacramento State - WSUCougars.com | Washington State University Athletics
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