Washington State baseball (2-2) opened up its season with a series split against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (2-2). The Cougars earned the win in the first two games of the series, but closed it out by dropping two straight as the pitching staff (at times) struggled to keep runners off the base path.
Those final two games saw the Cougar offense struggle to string together base runners which hindered their scoring opportunities. That was also combined with an overtaxed bullpen that struggled to overcome short starts in three of the four games. It’s a major reason why Washington State left Honolulu, O’ahu with a run differential of -3.
While the bullpen’s heavy usage throughout the series would be concerning in late March or April, at this point in the season it’s not a huge surprise. The Cougs will have to stretch out their starters in game situations and will result in more innings pitched for some of the bullpen arms. There is a ton of talent on this pitching staff and the struggles with command definitely felt like early season issues; not a problem that could extend throughout the season.
Monday, Feb. 21st – 7 to 4 loss
Tyler Hoeft would take his first loss of the season in the series finale when he allowed three runs (two of them earned) to score over 1.2 innings of work on Monday night. Hoeft also walked one, struck out two, and hit a batter with a pitch. The sophomore came into the game to face Hawaii in the bottom of the fourth and immediately gave up a single to Cole Cabrera; Cabrera would advance to second on a throwing error and then to third on a fielders choice on the next batter. He would then score on a ball that got past the catcher as Heoft’s only unearned run.
Unfortunately things would come undone for the Cougs, and Hoeft, in the bottom of the fifth when he’d surrender back-to-back singles and make a throwing error on a pick off attempt to advance Matt Aribal to third base and Scotty Scott to second. Both runs would come around to score after a wild pitch strikeout to Jacob Agawa advanced all runners safely — and Agawa reached first safely as well.
Hawaii would leave the fifth inning with a 3-2 lead. The Rainbow Warriors would tack on two runs in the bottom of the seventh and and the eighth to take a 7-2 lead into the top of the ninth inning. While the Cougars would score two runs of their own in the ninth, it wasn’t enough to overcome the five-run deficit as Hawaii salvaged a series split to open the 2022 season.
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Sunday, Feb. 20th – 6 to 3 loss
While the bullpen melted down on Monday, starting pitcher McKabe Cottrell struggled in his first start of the 2022 season as he gave up four runs in the first inning. He walked the first batter of the game that he faced, and then a fielders choice advanced the runner to second. Cottrell then drilled the third batter he faced and walked the fourth which loaded the bases for the Warriors. Aaron Ujimori slapped a single through the left side of the infield to score two runs; that was followed up by a liner to centerfield that plated another two to make it four nothing.
The Cougars’ offense would pick up their first run in the top of the second inning when Bryce Matthews — whom started off the inning with a double — scored after Will Cresswell grounded into a fielders choice. And in the third inning when Hylan Hall reached base on an infield error and then advanced all the way to third. Hall scored on a sacrifice fly to center to cut the Rainbow Warriors’ lead down to two.
Unfortunately the game wouldn’t get any closer than that as the Warriors would score a run in the fifth and seventh innings to make it 6-2. While WSU was able to scratch a run across in the top of the eighth, it wasn’t enough to close the gap and get the Cougs back into the win column.
Saturday, Feb. 19th – 4 to 2 win
Starter Cole McMillan had the best performance for WSU’s starting staff during the series as he pitched five innings while allowing three hits and two runs (one earned) with six strikeouts and only two walks. As for the bullpen, since they weren’t over taxed by a short start they were absolutely flawless over the last four innings; they allowed zero hits, struck out three and only walked one.
Washington State started the scoring early as a first inning single by Justin Van De Brake scored Kodie Kolden from second base. Kolden had reached first on a four pitch walk before he was moved up to second on a Collin Montez fielder’s choice. The Cougs would talk on another run in the second to make it 2-0 when Matthews scored from third on a single by Cody Russell.
The Cougars would talk on a run in top of the fifth to make it 3-1 and in the bottom of top of the eighth to earn the final margin.
Hawaii would respond in the bottom of the second with its first run of the game when Matt Wong scored on a balk by McMillan. The Warriors second, and final, run of the game came in the bottom of the sixth when Scott would score on a wild pitch. Scott had reached base on a single to start off the inning before he was advanced to third on a passed ball and a wild pitch.
Friday, Feb. 18th – a 5 to 4 win
The most dramatic game in the series saw Washington State erase an early three run deficit before it a pair of runs scored in the sixth and eighth inning respectively to put the Cougs on top 5-4. Connor Barison came in and pitched a solid ninth inning to secure the season opening win.
Starting pitcher Grant Taylor struggled with his command in his brief 1.2 innings as he walked six batters (while he only struck out two) and allowed three runs, all earned, to score. He loaded the bases in the first inning, but only gave up a run when Scott scored on a sac fly by Stone Miyao to make it 1-0 Hawaii; fortunately Taylor was able to stop the bleeding at that in the first inning. Unfortunately he allowed to runs to score in the second inning which led to the early hook as Elias Farland entered the game.
Farland would go on to pitch 2.1 innings and only allow one run with two walks and three strikeouts on his ledger. His performance out of the pen is what kept the Cougs in the game and set-up the comeback that started with a three run fourth inning.
Montez started off the game changing fourth inning with a single to center which was quickly followed up by a fielders choice to move him to second. The redshirt sophomore scored on a double by Van De Brake; he would score on a two run homer by Matthews five pitches later to tie the game at three. Unfortunately, it didn’t take Hawaii long to take the lead back as Cabrera scored on a Miyao single in the bottom of the same frame.
But that was the last run of the night the Warriors would score.
In the top of the sixth Jacob McKeon would single with one out and then he advanced to third on a Jake Meyer double down the right field line. McKeon would score on a Kyle Russell single to right to tie the game back up at four runs a piece. Washington State would take its first lead of the season when Meyer drilled an absolute bomb to right-center field to make it 5-4.
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Photo Credit: Washington State Athletic Communications