Cougar baseball uses Mother Nature to its advantage

First time WSU has won UCLA series since 2017



WSU infielder Jake Harvey runs toward home plate during an NCAA baseball game against UCLA, March 31, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

JAKE HULL, Evergreen reporter

WSU baseball (17-9, 5-6) swept No. 12 UCLA Bruins at home in two games.

This is the first time since 2017 that the Cougs have won a series against the Bruins.

The series was cut down to two games after Pullman got hit with a snow and hailstorm over the weekend, postponing the Saturday game and delaying the Sunday game an hour.

“Just got to stay the course,” head coach Brian Green said postgame.

Dakota Hawkins and Grant Taylor produced solid starts in both games as they both picked up wins. Hawkins now has a 3-3 record on the season and pitched six innings Friday, allowing five runs on five hits and eight strikeouts. Only three of the five runs Hawkins allowed were earned. 

Taylor pitched six innings where he allowed six hits but only one run en route to his second win of the season. Taylor had five strikeouts. 

Reliever and closer Chase Grillo came in during the top of the ninth in both games and earned the save in both of them. He struck out one batter Friday while Sunday he struck out two batters and walked one.

The offense for the Cougs over the weekend seems to be back to how it was during the first few weeks of the season. They had 20 hits combined in the series and scored 14 runs, allowing only six.

“We’re just getting really comfortable with our approach, really trying to drive that pitch count up,” Jacob McKeon said postgame. 

Sam Brown, Jonah Advincula and Kyle Russell led the way offensively for the Cougs. Brown had three RBIs on the weekend and Advincula hit his first homer since the second game of the season. 

Advincula batted out of the five spot during this series, the first time this season he batted anywhere other than lead-off. Russell also added two hits and an RBI to his season’s total.

Game 1: WSU wins 9-5

The first game of the series Friday started with the biggest crowd of the season as the game kicked off Family Weekend with a 9-5 win. By the end of the game, there were only die-hard fans in the stands as the wintry mix kicked in, which benefited the Cougs.

However, both teams had two errors in the game.

The scoring started in the top of the second inning when the Bruins scored two runs, one earned. The first score was a sac fly that scored the runner, then the second run came by a throwing error on a pickoff attempt to extend the Bruins’ lead to two. 

WSU catcher Will Cresswell swings at a pitch during an NCAA baseball game against UCLA, March 31, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

The lead for the Bruins ended after the end of the second inning when the Cougs would score four runs to take the 4-2 lead. Will Cresswell picked up an RBI double, then Jake Harvey singled to left field which scored two runs after a fielding error to give WSU the 3-2 lead. They would tack on their fourth run thanks to another throwing error by the Bruins, scoring Harvey. 

WSU outfielder Sam Brown heads back to the dugout during an NCAA baseball game against UCLA, March 31, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

The bottom of the third saw McKeon hit a solo shot to extend the lead to three early in the game. 

“Just trying to get the barrel to just out at-bats us,” McKeon said postgame. 

WSU pitcher Dakota Hawkins throws a pitch during an NCAA baseball game against UCLA, March 31, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

The last inning of scoring for the Cougs came in the bottom of the fourth, but they tacked on four more runs to give themselves control of the game as they won 9-5. Advincula, Brown and Russell all picked up RBIs in the inning. 

Game 2: WSU 5-1

One of the most complete games the Cougs had this season was Sunday’s 5-1 victory over the Bruins to win the game and the series. They allowed one run on only six hits against the Bruins and struck out five batters in six innings of work. Caden Kaelber also pitched two innings as he did not start this series because his normal Saturday game was postponed for snow. 

The Cougs used two starting pitchers and their closer in the game, a recipe for a low-scoring game for any opposing team.

Offensively for WSU, they scored their five runs off solo homers from Cresswell and Advincula and had an RBI single from McKeon and a two-RBI single from Brown. Brown has at least one RBI in 16 of the 27 games this season. 

The next Pac-12 matchup for the Cougs will take place Thursday as the Cougs head to Tempe, Arizona for a three-game series against the Arizona State Sun Devils.