A week after the starting staff had command issues, the offense made sure that there was no need for its pitchers to worry about the number of runners left on base. Washington State baseball (5-3) out scored Long Island University (3-5) 30-10 over the course of the four game series. The Cougars picked up the series win at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoriz, Ariz.
The Cougars not only hit .291 during the series but they also drew walks on 9.7% of their at bats. It was an explosion of offense a week after the bats had put up a solid showing in the opening weekend.
As for the pitching staff, over the course of four games they only allowed an average of 2.5 runs per game while striking out 37.5% of batters faced. While the Cougs walked 10.2% of batters faced, that number is inflated by seven walks allowed in their one loss during the series. But that’s not surprising, it’s still early into the season and the staff still needs to get stretched out — now is a good time to remind you that college baseball doesn’t have Spring Training like MiLB or MLB do.
Overall, the improvement from the first series to the second by the pitching staff is extremely encouraging. But don’t be surprised if there is regression during their non-conference tournament as it’s still early.
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The series clincher, Feb. 26th – LIU 2 vs WSU 9
Cole McMillan took the bump for Washington State and he pitched really well. The starter went four innings, struck out seven, while he gave up both of the Sharks two runs in this contest (only one of them was earned). He only surrendered one walk before he was relieved by Connor Barison at the start of the fifth. Barison would pitch three innings walk none, allow no runs, and strike out six batters as he earned his first win of the season.
Caden Kaelber came in to cover the final two innings, he allowed one hit and one walk with no strikeouts; but with a seven run lead at that point, he was able to be aggressive and attack the zone.
On the offensive side of things, it was actually the Sharks that struck first. Christopher Wasson doubled in the top of the third inning, with two outs, and then scored on a sharp single to left by Michael Edelman. LIU would pick up its second, and final, run of the game when Seth Surrett scored on a throwing error after Jack Power stole second. It was the last run the Sharks would score as Washington State’s offense woke up in the bottom half of the frame.
Jack Smith was the first runner to reach base in the frame as he reached on a throwing air by LIU’s third baseman. He would advance to second when Kyle Russell’s grounder was misplayed by the same third baseman; then Smith advanced to third (and Russell to second) on a walk to Will Cresswell. The seventh batter of the inning was drilled by a pitch and Smith scored. Unfortunately, the Cougars weren’t able to tack on any more runs in the fourth as Hylan Hall flied out.
Washington State would take the lead when Bryce Matthews scored off of a Jacob McKeon double. McKeon would come around to score two batters later when Smith knocked him in with an RBI single to center. The Cougars took advantage of the Sharks’ bullpen as they’d go on to score three more runs in the bottom of the sixth and the bottom of the seventh to get us to the final margin of 9-2.
The afternoon game, Feb. 25th – LIU 0 vs WSU 8
In the second game of Friday’s double header, the Cougars took an early lead and never looked back. Starter McKabe Cottrell went seven innings; he only allowed two hits to go along with eight strikeouts and a single walk — a nice bounce back from his outing against the Warriors. Dakota Hawkins came in from the pen to eat up the last two innings, he allowed no hits and struck out four with no walks either.
The Cougars struck first in the bottom of the second when Smith (whom started off the inning with a double) scored on an Elijah Hainline single. Hall followed that up with a RBI single of his own that scored Keith Jones II. Washington State would end up leaving two runners on base as Matthews grounded into out to first for a fielder’s choice and then Justin Van De Brake flew out to right.
WSU played add on in the bottom of the third as two more runs scored. The first of these runs was McKeon whom scored on a Jones II fielders choice to second; both runners that were on advanced a base. Cresswell knocked in the innings second run with a sacrifice fly to right that scored Kyle to make it 4-0 Cougars.
The Cougs would score three more runs in the third and a final insurance run in the seventh to make the final score 8-0. LIU’s bats were unable to find any success against the two Washington State pitchers that they faced.
The morning game, Feb. 25th – LIU 8 vs WSU 3
The Sharks’ only win over the weekend started off with them beating the snot out of Washington State starter Cam Liss. Liss lasted 3.1 innings, allowed four hits and two earned runs — this included three walks and four strikeouts. While Liss struggled, it was ultimately Elias Farland that took the loss as he pitched through the fifth inning and surrendered two more earned runs.
Unfortunately, Chase Grillo’s 0.1 innings is what took the game from competitive to out of reach as he allowed four earned runs while he was on the mound.
Washington State actually started off the game with three runs in the bottom of the first. Van De Brake scorched a ground-rule double to left center and he was knocked in when McKeon drilled a tater to the same part of the park. Matthews followed that up with his second homerun of the season to account for those three runs. And, for the first two innings, Liss easily handled the Sharks’ batters.
But the wheels came off in the third inning for the starter when he gave up back-to-back singles. Edelman doubled to left center to knocked in RJ Latkowski, and then Power scored on a single by Giovanni Ciaccio. That inning ended on a double play to get Liss out of trouble. WSU’s starter would face two batters in the fourth, give up a walk and then struck out Luke Turner.
LIU would tie the game in the fifth when Power scored on an Edelman double. And then in the sixth inning the wheels completely came off for Washington State as Farland gave up four runs and the single that Grillo gave up to start the inning came into score.
A game one win, Feb. 24th – LIU 0 vs WSU 10
Grant Taylor got the start for the Cougs and rebounded from his first start of the season with a six inning, three hit performance. He struck out five, walked one and allowed no runs. The bullpen was able to take advantage of the huge lead to be aggressive in the strike zone.
The party got started early for WSU as its first run of the game in the bottom of the second when Jake Meyer scored on a bases loaded hit-by-pitch. Washington State would tack on another run in the fourth — Matthews on an RBI single from Smith — and the fifth — a Matthews sac fly that scored Van De Brake — before the bats came out after the seventh inning stretch.
That seventh inning started when McKeon struck out on five pitches. Matthews followed that up with a five pitch walk and then scored on an RBI double by Meyer. Meyer would advance to third on a full count walk to Kyle and then score when Hall singled to center, Smith also scored on Hall’s single. But WSU wasn’t done yet as Van De Brake would single to right and knock both Hall and Kyle in on. Collin Montez was the last run of the inning to score when McKeon (whom had started the inning) hit a sharp infield single to short.
Washington State would tack on another run in the eighth and the bullpen would completely shut down the Sharks in route to the 10-0 victory.
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Photo Credit: Washington State athletic communications