There’s a school of thought among statheads that close results of games are more or less random, and that if you play enough close games, most teams will generally regress to a mean of winning roughly as many as they lose.
That obviously doesn’t apply to teams that are GRITTY like the Washington State Cougars, who posted a 3-1 record in the four games of last week despite being outscored 20-16. They have already played 11 one-run games and won eight of them — including all three in extra innings — after taking a weekend series from Arizona State, two games to one, and a Tuesday game from Gonzaga. All eight of their wins have been by one run.
Stats are for losers. Suck it, nerds!
That means the Cougs are now 3-3 in their last six Pac-12 games and have ascended out of the cellar and into a four-way tie for seventh place in the conference. Progress!
What Happened Last Weekend
After heading out on the road for the first two series, the Cougs very much enjoyed being back home at Bailey-Brayton Field for just the second time in a season that started way back on February 16.
It didn’t start that well, though, as WSU quickly fell behind the Sun Devils 4-0 in the first inning of the first game. The Cougs battled back almost immediately, though, dropping six runs on ASU in the second to take the lead. The big blow was the first career homer for Collin Montez:
VIDEO - CRUSHED! Collin Montez hits his 1st career homer, cuts ASU lead to 4-3#GoCougs pic.twitter.com/mlA1yOpceH— WSU Baseball (@Cougbaseball) March 30, 2018
With both starters unable to make it out of the second inning, it became a battle of bullpens. The Sun Devils pulled one back in the third off of Hayden Rosenkrantz (who was otherwise stellar in four innings of relief), then took the lead with two more in the sixth off Isaac Mullins before the Cougs tied it up in the bottom of the frame without ever recording a hit (walk-walk-fielder’s choice/error-K-K-groundout).
From there, WSU’s Ryan Walker and ASU’s Dellan Raish went head-to-head, with each throwing four scoreless innings out of the bullpen — the longest outings for each this season. It was a true pitchers duel, with them combining to allow just two hits (both off Walker) and 12 strikeouts.
With ASU finally forced to turn to another arm after 49 pitches from Raish, Justin Harrer stepped into the box, fell behind 0-2, and then did this:
That’s a fun way to end a ballgame, and the Cougs decided it was so much fun, they’d do it again on Saturday — although in a little different fashion.
Tied at 3 in the 11th, J.J. Hancock led off with a walk. Following a sac bunt by Jack Smith and an intentional walk to Robert Teel, Danny Sinatro stepped up and sent everyone home happy again:
The series ended with a 7-0 dud, and that’s all we need to say about that.
WSU then rebounded in its midweek game against Gonzaga, to whom the Cougs had lost five straight over two seasons, with another nail-biting win. Seven WSU pitchers combined to allow just three runs over the first eight innings, giving an opportunity to backup catcher Teel, who would become an unlikely hero by tomahawking a ball into the right field jet stream to put WSU in the lead:
VIDEO - Robert Teel's first career homer gives the Cougs a 4-3 lead in the 8th!#GoCougs pic.twitter.com/ba1nJ4cKln— WSU Baseball (@Cougbaseball) April 4, 2018
A 1-2-3 ninth by Walker for his third save of the year finally snapped the streak against the hated bulldogs.
Batter of the Weekend
In four games, Hancock was 4-for-12 with three walks and a double for a nifty line of .333/.467/.416. He’s now hitting .394/.459/.636 in nine conference games, and while that’s awesome, that’s not all he’s bringing to the table:
WEB GEM ALERT! JJ does it again! Check out this catch by JJ Hancock!@espn #SCTop10 #Pac12Best #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/6A2vQS0ZaL— WSU Baseball (@Cougbaseball) March 30, 2018
Honorable mentions: Harrer, who only had three hits in 16 at bats across the four games, but put two of them over the fence; and Sinatro, who only played in two games but was 4-for-8 with the aforementioned walk-off single.
Pitcher of the Weekend
It’s a toss-up here between Walker and Scotty Sunitsch, so we’ll just go ahead and give them co-honors.
VIDEO - Scotty Sunitsch ends the 3rd with this strikeout!— WSU Baseball (@Cougbaseball) March 31, 2018
2-1 Cougs, B3#GoCougs pic.twitter.com/fyTfDDnY7z
Walker has come back strong from his stumble at UCLA, proving to be WSU best and most reliable reliever. In his two appearances, which were both critical, he threw five scoreless innings allowing just two hits with six strikeouts and one walk. Marty Lees hasn’t been shy about going to him for multiple innings, and he’s generally been nails.
Sunitsch turned in the best start of the weekend, going 7 2⁄3 innings on Saturday, giving up just three runs on seven hits while striking out seven and walking one on just 96 pitches. It turned out to be huge, because it allowed the bullpen to hold the Sun Devils down until Sinatro could win it in extras.
The Cougs have a great chance to move up in the standings as they travel to Eugene to take on the Oregon Ducks, who are 16-11 overall but just 3-6 in the conference. They played what appears to be a fairly weak nonconference schedule and have since dropped two of three series in Pac-12 play.
The Ducks feature both a fairly pedestrian offense and pitching staff, so they’re certainly not an overwhelming opponent for WSU. But the game is away from Bailey-Brayton soooooo ... we shall see.
All games are available for streaming on Oregon’s live stream channel.
*Schedule change for this weekend’s series in Eugene due to rain in the forecast.— WSU Baseball (@Cougbaseball) April 5, 2018
We will play a doubleheader Friday at Noon!
Game 3 will be Saturday or Sunday, TBA#GoCougs pic.twitter.com/bU1Kc42zBw