Marty Lees’ third season in charge of WSU baseball got off to a rough start as the Cougs suffered three consecutive losses out of the gate but rebounded with a pair of wins to finish the first weekend (term used loosely) 2-3.
Now, the Cougs head off to SEC country for an even stiffer challenge.
What Happened Last Weekend
WSU played in a “tournament” in Arizona that was hosted by Nebraska and also included UC-Riverside. The Cougs played each team twice, dropping then first one to the Highlanders (8-1) on Friday, then both games to the Cornhuskers (8-3 on Saturday, 5-3 on Sunday). However, they were able to salvage something with a comeback victory over UC-Riverside in the finale, scoring six runs combined in the seventh and eighth innings to erase a five-run deficit and win, 7-6.
Waterman gives the Cougs the lead with 2 outs in the 8th!#GoCougs pic.twitter.com/p1BjFwcdGH— WSU Baseball (@Cougbaseball) February 19, 2018
WSU followed that up by winning a one-off with Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, 5-4. This time, the Cougs needed a run in the ninth to take the lead that eventually led to victory.
With 2 outs in the 9th, Harrer pulls a single through the left side! 5-4 Cougs in the 9th!#GoCougs pic.twitter.com/1oV0a3XkkQ— WSU Baseball (@Cougbaseball) February 21, 2018
Starting pitching was a strong point — A.J. Block, Isaac Mullins, Scotty Sunitsch and Cody Anderson all went at least five innings and allowed two or fewer earned runs. Putting the ball in play also wasn’t a problem; the Cougs batted .275 as a team to their opponents’ .268.
The weaknesses were threefold:
- Runners stranded. In five games, the Cougs left a whopping 49 runners on base. Probably not coincidentally, they had just nine extra-base hits — with zero home runs — in the five games, leaving them with a painfully low .333 slugging percentage as a team. When you’re hitting station to station, it’s awfully tough to score many runs. (By contrast, WSU’s opponents had 13 extra base hits, including six homers.)
- Wobbly defense. The Cougars gave up 10 unearned runs thanks to eight errors and a couple of passed balls from the defense.
- Shaky bullpen. If the starters were OK and the team gave up an average of six runs a game, it logically follows that the bullpen had a rough go of it.
The good news here is that none of this is super bleak. At the very least, one would think the defense will get better as the season goes along. Additionally, one would hope the power will come along a little bit and that the bullpen will stiffen up.
It’s also a great sign that the team was able to come back twice, which might say something about the Cougs’ fortitude.
(Or, if you’re a pessimist, you might say WSU was thisclose to being 0-5 right now. But hey ... positives!)
Batter of the Weekend
Designated hitter Wyatt Segle batted .471 (8-for-17) across four starts and a pinch hit appearance, adding a pair of walks to post a robust .526 on-base percentage. He also had WSU’s first five-hit game in five seasons, against UCR in the tournament finale.
Danny Sinatro (.375/.412/.500) and Andres Alvarez (.368/.429/.474) earn honorable mentions.
Pitcher of the Weekend
Let’s go with Scotty Sunitsch, who has transitioned from the closer’s role into the starting rotation. He was the only WSU starter able to go six innings, and he allowed just five hits and two runs while also striking out six against three walks against Nebraska. He left the game deadlocked at two. That’s a heck of a first start.
WE WANT BAMA! WE WANT BAMA!
OK, it’s only baseball, but it’s still mega cool for the team to get to travel to the southeast — a hotbed region of college baseball — for a series against the Alabama Crimson Tide. There will be a doubleheader on Friday starting at noon PT and a finale on Saturday at 11 a.m. PT.
The Cougars will have their work cut out for them; the Crimson Tide swept Valparaiso in three games in their season-opening series, then beat Middle Tennessee on Tuesday, outscoring their two opponents 38-13 in the four games.
If you’d like to watch, the series is supposed to be on SEC Network+. I believe that’s online only; check Alabama’s schedule for the links, since I presume that’s going to be the most accurate spot.