Cougs fail to zig Zags

Cougs allowed 11 Zags to score in abysmal defeat

WSU+infielder+Jack+Smith+dives+for+third+base+against+Utah%2C+April+1%2C+at+Bailey-Brayton+Field.

COLE QUINN

WSU infielder Jack Smith dives for third base against Utah, April 1, at Bailey-Brayton Field.

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports editor

The Cougs (10-18, 2-10) lost a game they would rather forget on Tuesday night in Spokane against the No. 15 team in the nation, Gonzaga. The final score was a dismal 12-0, Zags.

Gonzaga was remarkably efficient on offense, scoring 12 runs on nine hits with four runs off WSU starter Jack Lee (0-1). Lee only pitched for 1.1 innings, but allowed four runs on five hits with one walk. Gonzaga’s starter, Brad Mullan, worked 4.1 innings, allowing no runs on three hits and two walks. Gonzaga needed only three relievers to navigate the remaining 4.2 innings.

Gonzaga’s offensive success drove the Cougars to use nine pitchers to get through the remaining eight innings. Tyler Hoeft, Cam Liss and Cooper Barnum kept the Zags at bay by each allowing zero runs.

WSU threatened in the first inning with runners on first and second. After shortstop Kodie Kolden struck out to begin the game, first baseman Jack Smith reached first on an error followed by a walk from designated hitter Jacob Mckeon.

Unfortunately, WSU could not maintain this early sign of life, with right fielder Collin Montez hitting into a double play to end the inning.

The bottom of the first was a nightmare for the Cougs and Lee, falling behind 3-0. After forcing a lineout, Lee allowed a single followed by back-to-back home runs. Lee induced another fly out and a ground ball to end the inning.

The middle of the WSU order proved to be ineffective the first time through, with catcher Jake Meyer, second baseman Kyle Russell and left fielder Justin Van De Brake each grounding out for a quick 1-2-3 inning.

Lee’s struggles continued in the second inning, despite striking out Gonzaga’s catcher Ezra Samperi. With one out, Lee walked a player and allowed an RBI triple to Gonzaga’s lead-off man, center fielder Enzo Apodaca.

Now down by four runs, WSU head coach Brian Greene brought in right-handed pitcher Hoeft to safely navigate out of the second inning with a runner on third.

Hoeft did so skillfully, striking out Gonzaga’s shortstop Connor Coballes looking and designated hitter Tyler Rando swinging in the two and three spots.

The Cougs were unable to redeem themselves in the third, although center fielder Hylan Hall did make it interesting by drawing a lead-off walk and stealing second. The Cougs left Hall stranded at second with three consecutive ground outs. 

WSU turned to Liss, one of the more reliable pitchers on the WSU staff, to carry the team through the third and fourth innings. Liss has a 5.14 ERA, but a respectable 1.33 WHIP (Walks+Hits per innings pitched). Liss struck out three and walked one on the way to two scoreless innings.

The Cougar offense remained underwhelming with a pinch of excitement. McKeon led off with a double, followed by a Montez flyout, a Meyer groundout and a Russell swinging strikeout.

The WSU offense came to life for a brief time in the fifth. Van De Brake and Hall recorded back-to-back singles and Elijah Hainline laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Van De Brake to third and Hill to second.

Recognizing their starter’s limits, Gonzaga gave the ball to Jacob Rutherford who put out the Cougs’ offensive fire and stranded WSU on second and third.

WSU right-handed pitcher Chase Grillo relieved Liss. He allowed one run on one hit over the course of the fifth inning.

The top of the sixth was another dismal inning for the Cougs as McKeon, Montez and Meyer went three-up three-down.

The bottom of the inning provided Gonzaga with five more runs. Grillo walked Kramer to begin the inning and was relieved by right-handed pitcher Kolby Kmetko. Kmetko failed to get a single out, throwing a wild pitch, walking a batter, committing a fielding error and hitting a batter with a pitch. On his watch, an inherited runner and one of his own runners scored.

Right-handed pitcher Caden Kaelber relieved Kmetko on the mound and allowed both of Kmetko’s runners to score on two consecutive RBI singles before finally getting his third out by striking out Kramer.

In the seventh down 9-0, Russell drew a walk only for WSU’s next three batters, Van De Brake, Hall and Hainline to be retired.

Right-handed pitcher Cooper Barnum took the mound in the seventh and turned in a 1-2-3 inning, striking out two to keep the Zags’ lead in single digits.

WSU threatened in the eighth with runners on first and second by way of consecutive walks. A pitching change from Gonzaga crushed any hope of WSU success, as Nate Weeldreyer got two quick outs.

Gonzaga put their lead into double-digits in the eighth, adding three runs to their lead, 12-0.

In the bottom of the eighth, Will Sierra got the ball with the goal of getting the Cougs on the bus as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, he walked two, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch.

The Cougs left two runners on base in the top of the ninth, ending the game 12-0 in favor of the Zags. 

The Cougs now turn their attention to the Arizona Wildcats (21-8, 9-3). The Pac-12 teams are set to play a three-game series with game one beginning at 6 p.m. Friday in Tucson, Ariz.