The Washington State Cougars claimed their first series win of the season, taking three of four from the Long Island Sharks in Peoria, Arizona.
WSU (5-3) snagged the first game on Thursday afternoon, cruising to a 10-0 win, before the teams split a Friday doubleheader with Long Island (3-5) grabbing the first game, 8-3, and WSU responding with a 8-0 shutout win. WSU secured the series win on Saturday with a 9-2 win.
The four-game series got off to a slow start. Literally. Game one of the series suffered a 52-minute delay as the umpires reportedly were late.
The Cougar offense, however, got off to a much quicker start. WSU loaded the bases to start the second inning. Nick Desalvo plunked the first batter he faced in relief, walking in Jake Meyer to put WSU up 1-0.
Jack Smith pushed the lead to 2-0 the next inning with a two-out single right back up the middle to score Meyer from first. After adding a run in the sixth, the Cougars blew the game wide open in the seventh.
Bryce Matthews scored on a one-out Meyer double to left-center. With two outs and the bases loaded, Hylan Hall pulled a 1-1 pitch into left field to score two to give WSU a 6-0 lead. Colin Montez wore a 3-2 pitch to load the bases right back up, setting up another two-RBI single, this time from Justin Van De Brake. Jacob McKeon, who led off the inning for the Cougars, added the final run of the inning with an RBI single. WSU added one more run to make it an even 10-0 in the eighth on an Elijah Hainline sac fly before turning the ball to Jack Lee who struck out three of his four batters faced, to give WSU the series opener.
In the first of a Friday doubleheader, WSU took control early on. After the two leadoff hitters struck out, Van De Brake got the two-out rally going with a ground-rule double into left center. McKeon drove him in two pitches later with a home run. Matthews made it back to back jacks another two pitches later to give WSU an early 3-0 lead.
Long Island struck back in the third, getting the first two batters to reach and driving in one two batters later with a double to left. After surrendering a four pitch walk to load the bases, Cam Liss gave up an RBI single to right field, making it a 3-2 game. Liss avoided further damage with the bases still loaded, getting the Sharks five-hole hitter to roll into an inning ending double play.
A pair of doubles early in the fifth tied the game back up as the Cougar offense had difficulties stringing hits together. On in relief, Chase Grillo inherited the lead-off baserunner in the sixth and allowed him to score on his fifth pitch, giving up three straight doubles to put the Sharks ahead 6-3. Will Sierra took over two batters later to try and stop the bleeding. After walking the first batter he saw to load the bases, Giovanni Ciaccio nearly cleared them with a double down the right field line, scoring two more to give the Sharks a 8-3 lead.
WSU’s offense never got a chance to get back in it, failing to put more than one baserunner on at a time in all but the seventh inning as the Sharks evened the series up.
Grant Taylor was much better this time around. Going six strong shutout innings with five strikeouts and one walk on 104 pitches.
As the late great Ernie Banks famously said, “Let’s play two!”
In the bottom half of the second, Smith got things going with a lead off double to right. Keith Jones II earned a four pitch walk and Will Cresswell moved them both over a bag into scoring positions with a sac-bunt. Hainline and Hall drove them in with a pair of singles for an early 2-0 Cougar lead.
The Sharks again found themselves in early trouble in the third, allowing the first three Cougars to reach base. Jones II brought one home on a ground out to second and Cresswell brought in one more on a sac-fly.
With two outs to start the fourth, a McKeon single and Russell walk set Smith up for a bases clearing double to left to score McKeon from second and Russell all the way from first. Cresswell picked up his second RBI of the game two batters later with a single to center, giving WSU and starter McKabe Cottrell a seven run cushion.
Cottrell mowed down the Sharks lineup. Going seven scoreless innings, giving up just two hits, one walk and striking out eight on 92 pitches. The Cougars added one more run in the seventh on a Hall double and Dakota Hawkins pitched a perfect two innings to give WSU the 8-0 win and guarantee at least a series split.
Brian Green gave the nod to Cole McMillan for the closing game on Saturday afternoon. McMillan got into a bit of trouble in the third, giving the Sharks the early 1-0 lead on a two-out single from Michael Edelman to score Christopher Wasson from second. The Sharks again struck with two-outs as a Hainline throwing error cost the Cougars an unearned run to put LIU up 2-0.
After LIU picked up two errors of their own in the bottom half of the inning, Hainline earned the run back, wearing a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded to put WSU on the board at 2-1. The very next inning, McKeon tied the game up with a double to left center to score Matthews from first. A sac-fly from Van De Brake to move McKeon to third set up a go-ahead single from Smith to give WSU a 3-2 lead. Matthews singled to score Cresswell with two-outs in the sixth to push the lead to 4-2. Van De Brake then blew the game open with a two-RBI laser down the RF line for a triple.
Hainline all but put the nail in the coffin in the seventh with a two-run home run to left center on a 3-2 count to put WSU up 9-2. Caden Kaelber closed out the final two innings to lift WSU to their first series win of the season, taking three of four from the Long Island Sharks.
The Cougars will make a quick pitstop in Stephenville, Texas, to square off with Tarleton State on Wednesday afternoon before playing three games in the Frisco College Baseball Classic this weekend against Texas A&M, Wichita State, and Iowa.