WSU baseball went into last weekend’s series knowing they would be up against quite the challenge when they traveled to the southeast to take on Alabama, and that definitely played out, as the Cougars returned to Pullman having been swept by the Crimson Tide.
At least they got to hang out in some mildly warm weather for a few days, because a predicted downturn in the weather in Pullman has already put the brakes on this weekend’s series with Sacramento State.
What Happened Last Weekend
It was a combination of more of the same and something new that doomed the Cougs (2-6) to the three-game sweep in Tuscaloosa by scores of 12-4, 8-2 and 9-3.
More of the same: The offense just couldn’t push runs across.
Something new: The starting pitching struggled mightily.
That latter wasn’t totally unexpected; we knew the Crimson Tide offense was a force to be reckoned with, and that was on full display all weekend as Alabama scored 12, 8 and 9 runs in the three games. The starters combined for just 12 2⁄3 innings, allowing 14 runs. The bullpen didn’t fare much better.
The former is a bit worrisome, as it continues a trend from the first weekend. In the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, the Cougs racked up 17 base runners yet could only score four runs, leaving 12 men on base. On Sunday, the Cougs put 14 guys on yet could only score three, leaving 11 on base. That’s obviously suboptimal.
The biggest problem is that the lineup is completely lacking in any kind of power so far. On the weekend, WSU had just three extra base hits — James Rudkin and Blake Clanton each had their (and the team’s) first homers of the season, while Collin Montez chipped in a double. But that was it. For the entire weekend.
On the season, the Cougars are now slugging an anemic .317, while their opponents are checking in at .448. That’s going to have to change or it’s going to be a very long season with lots of difficulty scoring runs.
On the bright side? The defense had a much better weekend. The 12 runs allowed in the first game of the doubleheader on Friday could have been a whole lot worse if not for a pair of spectacular diving catches made by JJ Hancock and Danny Sinatro in the outfield.
Nice grab by Danny Sinatro in left centerfield!#GoCougs #WebGem pic.twitter.com/TXT2QfQeLM— WSU Baseball (@Cougbaseball) February 23, 2018
Dillon Plew also made a handful of nice plays at third base, including this one in game two of the doubleheader to keep at least one run off the board.
Another nice defensive play turned in by Dillon Plew at 3rd base!#GoCougs pic.twitter.com/TLAQOYPDV2— WSU Baseball (@Cougbaseball) February 24, 2018
Additionally, catcher Cal Waterman threw out three of five would-be base stealers in the Friday doubleheader, leading the Crimson Tide to not even test him on Saturday.
Waterman gets another one to end the 7th!#GoCougs pic.twitter.com/Hjo0KAt76C— WSU Baseball (@Cougbaseball) February 24, 2018
The Cougars still struggled a little with errors, though; in the second game of the double header, a pair of errors led to five unearned runs against starter Cody Anderson, while another error on Saturday led to a few unearned runs that put a close game out of reach late. Alabama is a team that makes you pay, and pay the Cougars did.
Batter of the Weekend
Slim pickins here. Second baseman Jack Smith was the only Cougar to get hits in all three games, going 4-for-12; shortstop Andres Alvarez also was 4-for-12, but he added a couple walks. Either of those will do, I guess.
Pitcher of the Weekend
Only one pitcher threw at least one inning and made it out unscathed — Hayden Rosenkrantz, who pitched the final inning of the series — but even he allowed an inherited runner to score.
I think we’ll go with Anderson here, who threw 5 2⁄3 innings, allowing 7 hits and 1 earned run, racking up 7 strikeouts against just 3 walks. Of course, he allowed 6 runs overall, as he was unable to pick up his defense, but still — a pretty good effort considering the firepower of the Crimson Tide. His ERA for the year is now a shiny 2.53 after a pair of starts on the road against Nebraska and Alabama. Not bad!
Well, it was supposed to Sacramento State. But this is the current forecast, courtesy of Weather.com:
Not exactly great baseball weather, so the Hornets decided to stay home. Wimps!
The next series is scheduled to begin on March 8 against Saint Mary’s. I’m sure the Gaels will be looking for some basketball revenge.