The Washington State Cougars split the opening baseball series of the season with the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, with each taking two games a piece.
WSU (2-2) opened up the season by grabbing the first two games 5-4 and 4-2. Hawaii (2-2) grabbed the final two games, 6-3 and 7-4. Defensive miscues did the Cougars in for the final two games with a total of six errors on Sunday and Monday.
Game 1: WSU 5, Hawaii 4
The Cougars got into some early trouble to start the year. Friday starter Grant Taylor walked four of the first six batters he faced and only lasted 1.2 innings, walking six and allowing three runs while throwing 69 pitches. All three of the runs came when Hawaii had the bases loaded, but it could have been much worse.
The Cougars rallied back in the fourth. Colin Montez singled to start the inning and scored two batters later on a Justin Van De Brake double to right center, giving the Cougs their first run of the season. DH Bryce Matthews evened the game up five pitchers later on a two-run home run, but Hawaii jumped right back in front in the bottom half of the next inning. Facing the heart of the order, Cole Cabrera singled and scored two batters later on Stone Miyao single.
The Cougars tied the game back up in sixth on an 0-2 RBI single from the nine-hole hitter Kyle Russell, who ended the night 3-for-4. Jake Meyer put WSU on top in eighth, sending a 3-0 middle-middle fastball into the warm Hawaii night sky for a solo home run. Hawaii got two runners on in the ninth but rolled over to first baseman Jacob McKeon who stepped on first to give WSU a 1-0 start.
Game 2: WSU 4, Hawaii 2
Game two started out much hotter for the Cougars. Van De Brake won an 11 pitch battle with an RBI single to left field to put the Cougars on top 1-0 in the first. Russell doubled the Cougar run total the following inning with a single to left field of his own to score McKeon. Hawaii got its first run of the game in the bottom half of the inning after WSU’s Saturday starter, Cole McMillan, balked with a runner on third. WSU then put together a two-out rally in fifth. Hylan Hall singled and advanced to second on a passed ball before Montez plated Hall with a single to give WSU a 3-1 lead.
After a lead-off single, Hawaii’s Scotty Scott proceeded to make his way around the bases without the ball ever being put into play, advancing to second on a passed ball, then to third and scoring on a wild pitch to bring Hawaii back within one. However, McKeon added an insurance run for the Cougars in eighth with an RBI double to score Jack Smith before the Cougars turned the ball over to Cam Liss, who pitched a perfect eighth before Caden Kaelber earned the save by shutting the door on the Rainbow Warriors in the ninth.
Game 3: Hawaii 6, WSU 3
In their first daylight appearance, the Cougars looked to have a case of heliophobia. In Hawaii’s half of the first, McKabe Cottrell walked the first batter but he appeared to be avoiding any further damage after retiring the next two Rainbow Warriors. However, Cottrell plunked the cleanup hitter, walked the next to load the bases and then hit another Rainbow Warrior to put Hawaii up 1-0. The remaining Rainbow Warriors on base all scored after back-to-back singles from Aaron Ujimori and Jordan Donahue to hang a crooked number on the scoreboard in just the first inning.
Trailing 4-0, the Cougars threatened Hawaii in the next inning, getting the first three batters to reach safely. With the bases loaded and no outs, the Cougars could only score one on an run-scoring fielder’s choice followed up with a strikeout and flyout. WSU again threatened with two men in scoring position to start the third but once again only plated one on a Van De Brake sac-fly followed by two more fly-outs to end the inning. Hawaii added an unearned run in the fifth after Ujimori advanced to third on a failed pickoff attempt and scored on a sac-fly. Both teams added one more run in the seventh and eighth as Hawaii handed the Cougars their first loss of the year, 6-3.
Game 4: Hawaii 7, WSU 4
The Cougars still had one last chance to pick up the opening series win on Monday night. Meyer opened the scoring for the Cougs in the second, roping a double into the right-center field gap. The ball, unfortunately, bounced off the warning track and over the fence for a ground-rule double, preventing WSU from possibly scoring Smith from first. Cam Liss got the spot start for the Cougars, going three scoreless innings and only allowing one hit.
Following Liss’s departure for reliever Tyler Hoeft in the fourth, the Cougar defense began to fall apart. Cabrera led off the inning with an infield single but was able to reach second after a throwing error from Smith, the Cougar third baseman. Cabrera reached third on a fielder’s choice the next at-bat. Hoeft appeared to win a seven-pitch battle by striking out Matt Wong, but the ball got past Meyer for a rare dropped third strike resulting in a run. Hawaii again scored on a dropped third strike, scoring two runs this time around on a wild pitch to take a 3-2 lead solely on strikeouts. A pair of errors in the bottom of the seventh from Russell pushed the Hawaii lead to 5-2 and a pair of bases-loaded walks in the eighth pushed the Hawaii lead to 7-2 headed into the ninth.
Down to their last three outs, the Cougars put some pressure on the Rainbow Warriors by loading the bases with no outs. Hall punched a single into left field and the Cougars brought the tying run to the plate. However the Cougars’ two-hole hitter, Van De Brake, rolled into a double-play, scoring one but dealing a significant blow to the Cougars ninth inning rally chances. McKeon struck out two batters later and the Cougars fell 7-4, finishing the game with five errors and a series split after taking the first two games.
Brian Greene’s squad will look to clean up the defensive lapses behind the dish and in the field before starting another warm-weather four game series. The Cougars will play the Long Island Sharks starting on Thursday at the Peoria Sports Complex in Arizona, home of the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres.