Baseball to duke it out in the desert

From staff reports

After showing promise in its opening series of the 2015 season, the Washington State men’s baseball team (2-2) is off to Arizona for another four-game tournament: the Pac-12/Big-12 Challenge. WSU will open and close the series in Mesa against Oklahoma (3-2) and Kansas State (2-2), respectively. The second and third games will be held in Surprise., against Oklahoma State (1-2) and Kansas (0-3).

Head Coach Donnie Marbut will have to find a way to manufacture runs against all four Big-12 opponents after struggling to do so in the SFA Tipton Ford Classic. The Cougars’ 12 runs over the four-game tournament were the fewest of the teams competing. Given the youth of the team, the sluggish offense is not surprising but Marbut said he can see a bright future for them.

Freshmen infielders Shane Matheny and Jack Strunc both had good and bad moments on the field and at the plate during opening weekend. For them, along with the other freshmen, it’s about getting game reps.

“Well they had a really good fall,” Marbut said of Matheny and Strunc. “They both earned those spots. When it comes to third base, Shane plays the best defense and when it comes to short [stop] Jack plays the best defense.”

“I’m not going to evaluate them this weekend, it wasn’t fair to evaluate them to be honest,” Marbut said. “I’m just glad they got out there and played and got some experience. They’re just like anybody else – I expect them to play better this weekend.”

With the youth and inexperience that Washington State has, the lineup will continue to fluctuate this weekend. Redshirt sophomore second baseman Shea Donlin will be out this weekend with a hamstring injury and senior Ian Sagdal will take his place.

Starting pitching also came at a premium for the Cougars over the first four games with no starter lasting longer than three innings. Both seniors, left-hander Joe Pistorese (0-1) and right-hander Sean Hartnett (0-0), had subpar outings with Pistorese being the only one to take a loss – pulled after just 1 and 1/3 innings.

With Pistorese, there is less concern given his proven track record at the Pac-12 level. For Hartnett, it’s a matter of finding his comfort zone and fitting into the role of a starter.

“We didn’t do a very good job the entire weekend with our starting pitching. We were a little bit too loose to leadoff hitters,” said Marbut on the poor starts. “Joe knows how to bounce back. Sean I think is just getting comfortable in that starter role.”

But what starting pitching lacked, the bullpen made up for. Coming into the season, Marbut knew his bullpen would be good, and he’s expecting no different this weekend after a strong showing in the SFA Tipton Ford Classic.

“I thought one of the positives was the bullpen,” Marbut said. “We knew the bullpen was going to be a strength. I don’t think there were a ton of positives – I don’t think there were a ton of negatives either. We just knew the bullpen was going to be a strength and it showed up last weekend.”

The Cougars will ride their talented, but still young, squad into Arizona to take on a very talented group of teams, including a nationally-ranked Oklahoma State squad with Oklahoma State being ranked nationally.


The Sooners will start redshirt senior right-handed pitcher Robert Tasin (1-0) against the Cougars, Thursday. Tasin got his first win of the season after holding Southern Illinois University Edwardsville  to three hits and zero runs over five innings pitched.

Washington State senior right-hander Sean Hartnett will get his second start after struggling to make it through three innings in his first outing. Hartnett only made two starts during the 2014 season and, as Marbut mentioned, it’s all about getting comfortable in his new role.

Oklahoma junior outfielder Craig Aikin is arguably the Sooners best hitter and is starting off the 2015 season strong, hitting .400 (8-20) with three runs batted in his first five games. His .500 slugging percentage should definitely standout to all the Cougar pitchers.

The Cougars are 8-5 all-time against the Sooners. WSU will face Oklahoma at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday in Mesa, Arizona.

Oklahoma State:

Despite dropping two of its first three games to Arizona State last week, Oklahoma State currently ranks No.9 in the country according to Baseball America.

Washington State freshman left-hander Tyler McDowell will get the start against the Cowboys, his first as a Cougar. He already has his first win under his belt and Marbut feels he gives the Cougars the best chance against OSU.

The last time the two teams met was in 2011 and the Cougars won 13-2. However, the Cowboys hold the all-time record 4-2 over WSU. The Cowboys have to be considered the best in the challenge this weekend, even with their 1-2 record.

WSU will face Oklahoma State at 3:30 p.m. on Friday in Surprise, Arizona.


Saturday will mark the first time Washington State and Kansas have faced each other on the baseball diamond in the two programs’ histories. The Jayhawks opened the season against No. 2 LSU and got swept by the Tigers.

Washington State senior left-hander Joe Pistorese will start Saturday with the hope of rebounding after his poor first start against Missouri State last weekend. Kansas junior left-hander Ben Krauth (0-1) will be looking to do the same after lasting just 4 and 1/3 innings his last outing, which left him an 8.31 ERA.

WSU will face Kansas at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in Surprise, Arizona.

Kansas State:

The Cougars will conclude the Big-12/Pac-12 challenge Sunday against Kansas State, which will also come in having split its first two games of the 2015 season. The Wildcats are looking to improve off their 2014 season in which they finished last in the Big-12 conference (5-19).

Kansas State will start junior right-hander Corey Fischer (0-0) who is coming off a strong first outing –four hits, one walk and six strikeouts over 5 and 2/3 innings. Washington State will go with freshman right-hander Nick Leonard (1-0) after he pitched one strong inning against Stephen F. Austin in the final game of the SFA Tipton Ford Classic.

WSU will face Kansas State at 10:00 a.m. PST on Sunday in Mesa, Arizona.

Reporting by Lars Hanson