Coming off a disappointing showing at Texas-San Antonio, where the Cougs dropped three of four to the Road Runners, it was out of the frying pan and into the fire for WSU in making the trip to Arizona State last weekend. The Sun Devils were ranked No. 15 in the country, and Packard Stadium had been a house of horrors for WSU over the years. ASU held an all-time record of 42-12 against the Cougs heading into the series.
So of course the Cougars went out and dropped 27 runs on the Sun Devils in getting their first ever series win at Packard.
It was as important as it was unexpected, and it's perhaps a sign that the offensive struggles of the past few years are gone, at least for this year. The Cougs have played a reasonably challenging schedule, yet lead the Pac-12 in batting average, doubles, homers and (by extension) slugging percentage.
"This weekend was a solid effort by our club," Cougar Head Coach Donnie Marbut said. "We won the two games where we were the best team on the field."
Trace Tam Sing 4-for-10 (.400), 4 RBI, 2 BB, 2B, SB
It was hard to pick only one, as WSU got contributions up and down the order. But I went with Tam Sing because it's really cool to see him off to such a great start. He hasn't had the best of luck at WSU; he lost his starting shortstop job as a freshman in large part because he committed a plethora of errors, then saw last season cut short after just six games because of a shoulder injury that required surgery. He's now hitting .340/.419/.491 in the bottom third of the order. He's still making too many errors, but his emergence at the plate is a big reason this offense is deeper -- and more potent -- than it's been in years.
Joe Pistorese 6 2/3 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 SO, 1 BB
It's not easy being the Friday night starter -- if you're the "No. 1" starter in the big leagues, you aren't always going against the other team's best pitcher. In college, though, you do. And Pistorese -- who didn't begin the season as the Friday guy, but has ascended there with his performances -- went toe to toe with ASU's Kyle Williams, who had allowed just three earned runs in 30 innings before Friday. Pistorese held ASU to just one run over the first six innings while the Cougs beat up Williams, and even though Pistorese ran out of gas in the seventh, he left the game with a 9-4 lead WSU would not relinquish. Honorable mention goes to Jason Monda, who pitched 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief as J.D. Leckenby's setup man.
Most Important At-Bat
It's tough to pick one, since there wasn't really any super dramatic moment in any of the games. So I'm going to go with Monda's two-run single in the seventh inning of game three. It put the Cougs up 10-4, and it would turn that WSU would need those two runs, and Leckenby gave back a few in the ninth before the Cougs could close it out at 11-8. That hit would prove to be the difference in securing the all-important series win.
Most Important Pitch
This one was easy -- and it also was game three. It was no surprise that the Sun Devils refused to go quietly, and Leckenby struggled to shut the door. ASU had scored a couple of runs to make things uncomfortable at 11-8, and had runners on first and second with one out. But he induced ASU's powerful first baseman, David Graybill, into a game-ending around-the-horn double play to secure the series victory.
The Cougs played Gonzaga tonight, dropping a close one, 10-8, which you will be able to read about Wednesday in Hot Cougar Action. They fell behind early, kept fighting back, but never could quite get over the top -- eventually done in by a critical error that could have kept the game 8-7 in the top of the 9th. But these midweek games are sort of odd, in that they're not started by any of the weekend guys. Still, the Cougs appeared to lack a bit of urgency -- maybe because of the series win at ASU? -- something that obviously won't go over well with Marbut.
WSU's next series is this weekend at home against Brown, which has played just seven games this year and is 1-6 after getting swept at Auburn. The Bears should make for easy fodder for the Cougs.
The games are at 6 p.m. PT on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday, and noon on Sunday.