Baseball ready to climb Pac-12 standings with home stand against Wildcats 

Cougars will challenge ninth-best Arizona starting Friday



WSU infielder Elijah Hainline high-fives his teammates after winning an NCAA baseball game against Southern Indiana, Saturday, March 4, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

JAKE HULL, Evergreen reporter

WSU baseball (18-12, 5-9) has an important three-game home stand against the Arizona Wildcats starting Friday at Bailey-Brayton Field.

This will be a battle of the bottom half of the Pac-12 standings as the Cougs currently sit as the eighth-best team in the Conference with their 5-9 record. The Wildcats have a 5-10 record to give them the ninth spot in the Conference.

This season the Pac-12 tournament will feature nine teams as opposed to the eight from last season’s inaugural tournament.

All time, the Cougs are 26-40 against the Wildcats. The last time these teams met was April 2022 when the Cougs took two-of-three against the Wildcats in Tucson, Arizona.

The Cougars’ last Pac-12 matchup was against the Arizona State Sun Devils in Phoenix. The Cougs lost all three games including blowing the first game of the series in the bottom of the ninth.

Pitching has been an issue in the bullpen as of late for the Cougs. The best case scenario in this series will be for the starting pitchers of Dakota Hawkins, Caden Kaelber and Grant Taylor to each go five innings or more to save the bullpen from having to go heavy innings each game.

So far this season, the Wildcats have an overall record of 17-13 with a Conference record of 5-10, one more loss than the Cougs and ninth-best in the Pac-12.

Arizona started their season with a huge win as they defeated the then-ranked No. 2 Tennessee Volunteers 3-1. After a defeat against Fresno State, they went on a two-game winning streak as they took down Michigan State and UC San Diego.

The first three-game series for the Wildcats was against West Virginia where the Wildcats lost the first two games but took the third 15-5.

Including the final game against West Virginia, the Wildcats went on a nine-game winning streak including three-game sweeps of North Dakota State and Cal to give the Wildcats a 3-0 Pac-12 record after the first week of Conference play.

The Wildcats’ struggles in the Pac-12 started when they traveled to Los Angeles and got swept by the Bruins in three games. They followed that performance up with another three-game defeat at the hands of their rival Arizona State.

After a third straight three-game loss in Conference play to the Oregon Ducks, Arizona finally got a series win as they took two against the Washington Huskies in their latest Pac-12 play.

This season the Wildcats are led by Kiko Romero, Mac Bingham and Chase Davis.

Romero has a batting average of .374 with 46 hits for 42 RBIs and 10 homers, which all are top five in the Conference.

Bingham is batting .333 with 42 hits for 37 RBIs and seven homers. Davis rounds out the top three for the Wildcats with 37 hits including 12 homers for 33 RBIs.

Pitching for Arizona is led by Bradon Zastrow and TJ Nichols. Zastrow has pitched 38.2 innings and holds a 4.42 ERA after allowing 23 runs on 42 hits and striking out 35 batters. Nichols has a 6.41 ERA after pitching 39.1 innings this season. He has allowed 30 runs on 40 hits and has struck out 40 batters, he also walked 15 so far.

After the series against the Wildcats, the Cougs will travel to Spokane to take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs for one game. The game will take place at Steve Hertz Field at Patterson Baseball Complex.