WSU baseball heads to Arizona to open 2023 Season 

Cougs to play two games each against Villanova and UC Riverside 



WSU infielder Kodie Kolden sprints toward third base during an NCAA collegiate baseball game against Utah, April 1, at Bailey-Brayton Field.

JAKE HULL, Evergreen reporter

WSU Baseball is set to open its 2023 campaign with two games against both the Villanova Wildcats and the UC Riverside Highlanders. Each game will be played in Peoria, Arizona at the Peoria Sports Complex. 

The first game will be played Friday against Villanova. The Cougs will then play UC Riverside Saturday afternoon then against Villanova again that night. They end the mini tournament Sunday against the Highlanders. 

Last season the Cougs finished with a 27-26 record and a 12-18 conference record. They ended their season on a four-game winning streak after defeating the Portland Pilots on the road, then swept the Arizona State Sun Devils at home.

The Cougs missed out on the first-ever Pac-12 Conference Tournament by one place as they finished ninth in the Conference, the tournament saw eight teams qualify for the playoffs. For this season, the playoffs will see nine teams make it to the Conference Tournament, which is more of an incentive for the Cougs to get much-needed conference wins this season. 

The Villanova Wildcats finished last season with a 19-29-1 record and an 8-12 record in the Big East. Notable wins on the season were against then-ranked No. 15 Uconn where they won one game 4-1, they also swept University of Richmond early in the season, scoring 36 runs in the three games and allowing 20. 

Key players for the Wildcats last season were Chris Rotondo and Joey Castellanos. Rotondo led Villanova with a batting average of .359 with 69 hits, 12 home runs and 37 RBI. Castellanos had a batting average of .323 with 64 hits, four home runs and 33 RBI. He also struck out 34 times. Both players graduated last season and are no longer on the team. 

Jack O’Reilly could pose a threat to the Cougs in their games this weekend. He had 53 hits last season with two home runs and 36 RBIs. He struck out 26 times and walked 20, he also started every game last season. 

For the UC Riverside Highlanders, they finished the 2022 season with a record of 8-45 with a Conference record in the Big East of 4-26. They started the season on a 10-game losing streak, scoring only 30 runs and allowing 97. Of their 30 runs scored, 11 of them were in one game in a 20-11 loss to Saint Mary’s. 

After their first win in their 11th game, they went on another 10-game losing streak. 

The Highlanders were defeated by the Cougs in May last season by a score of 10-3. Bryce Matthews had four RBIs to lead the Cougs in the game. 

The best offensive players for UC Riverside last season were Dylan Orick and Jacob Badawi. Orick had a batting average of .247 with 48 hits, three home runs and 32 RBI. He struck out 51 times and walked 21. 

Badawi had a batting average of .248 with 37 hits and 14 RBI. He struck out 20 times in 44 games. Orick is not on the team but Badawi returns for his sophomore year. On the UC Riverside roster, every player except for one was born or raised in California or played high school baseball in California. The only player not from California is Jack Weeks, a left-handed senior pitcher from Reston, Virginia. 

After the weekend trip to Arizona, the Cougs will head on Feb. 24 to San Diego to compete in the Tony Gwynn Classic. The first game for the Cougs in the classic will be against UC Irvine. 

The other teams in the tournament will be the San Diego State Aztecs, UNLV Runnin Rebels, UC San Diego Tritons, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, University of San Diego Toreros and North Dakota State Bisons. The Cougs will play one game against each team besides Hawaii, San Diego and North Dakota State.