Cougs lose final game of the year on Senior Day

Cougars lose forgettable game to top-5 Stanford, 15-5, honor 11 seniors



Jacob McKeon embraces his head coach during his senior night, May 20, in Pullman, Wash.

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen managing editor

Brian Green embraced each of his graduating seniors in front of home plate, prior to their final game in the crimson and gray. It was already clear the Cougs had fallen short of their goal to qualify for their first Pac-12 Baseball Tournament. That fact made senior day especially hard.

“Senior days are always hard and they need to be hard,” Green said. “This class, the makeup, the care, the work, the production and performance, three winning seasons, or four winning seasons in a row, they should be really proud of that.”

WSU baseball’s seniors pose wit their friends and families during senior night, May 20, in Pullman, Wash.

After WSU baseball (29-23, 10-19 Pac-12) recognized its senior class of 2023, the Cougs lost a game they would probably soon forget to the No. 3 team in the nation, Stanford Cardinal (37-14, 23-7), 15-5.

However, Saturday only made official what Thursday’s game represented when WSU saw its best chance to beat a top-five team and sneak into the Pac-12 postseason evaporate in a four-hour 7-6 extra-inning loss.

Game two brought many of the same struggles as game one. The Stanford pitching staff figured out the Wazzu lineup after about the second time through the batting order and the Cougars’ pitching staff was outsmarted by a Stanford offense that is among the best in the country. The Cougs lost 7-4.

On Saturday, sophomore Conner Wilford got the start. He walked the first two runners he saw, setting up Carter Graham’s 13th home run of the season, which gave Stanford an early 3-0 lead.

Connor Wilford exits the game in the 2nd inning against Stanford, May 20, in Pullman, Wash.

In the bottom of the first, Jonah Advincula singled and Sam Brown and Bryce Matthews drew walks to set up Elijah Hainline’s RBI single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Unfortunately, Cam Magee grounded out into a double play to end the bases-loaded threat.

In the top of the second, Wilford struck out one more Stanford batter, the last of his 47 strikeouts in his first year on the Palouse.

Green turned to a senior out of the bullpen, Caden Kaelber, a.k.a “the Rooster” to pitch. Kaelber cleaned up the second inning for the Cougar’s only clean inning of the game. 

Caden Kaelber pitches during his senior night against Stanford, May 20, in Pullman, Wash.

He allowed five runs (four earned), walked one and struck out four in 2.1 innings to raise his Cougar career strikeout total to 143 in three seasons. Kaelber’s career-best 87 strikeouts in 2023 were the fifth-most in the Pac-12. At WSU, he was second only to senior Cougar starter Dakota Hawkins’ 92 strikeouts (fourth-best in the Pac-12).

Seniors Cam Liss and McKabe Cottrell threw their final pitches in a Cougar uniform as well.

In the bottom of the second, Sam Brown followed up a Kyle Russell lead-off single and Advincula walk with a two-RBI single to tie the game 3-3. This was the closest the Cougs got to beating Stanford as the Pac-12 leading Cardinal offense scored at least one run in each of the final seven innings and their pitching held WSU scoreless for five straight innings.

Kyle Russell fields and throws the fall toward Sam Brown at first, May 20, in Pullman, Wash.

Joey Dixon kept the Cougs largely at bay for five innings, in which he allowed three runs on five hits, three walks and three strikeouts.

Grant Taylor got the nod for the fifth and sixth innings. He raised his season strikeout total to 55, the third-most by a Coug in 2023 and 21st-best in the Conference.

Andrew Baughn made his 32nd pitching appearance this season, the second-most in a single season in WSU history. Baughn allowed Graham to hit his second home run of the game and 14th of the season, which made him a top 10 home run hitter in the Pac-12.

Hainline ensured the faithful Cougs who stuck it out through a 13-3 Stanford lead in the eighth inning were treated to some Cougar mojo. WSU’s home run leader did what he does best by slamming his 12th homer of the year.

Nate Swarts followed suit and jacked a solo shot of his own in the ninth inning. It was Swarts’ third of the year.

Even if the Cougs had miraculously won Saturday, it would not have mattered based on the standings of the other Saturday games. UCLA, Arizona and California each won their 12th game over the weekend putting them two or more games in front of WSU in the Pac-12 standings.  

The top nine teams in the 11-team Pac-12 Conference qualified for the 2023 Pac-12 Baseball Tournament, being held May 23-27 in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

“We fell short of our goals to make it to the postseason, but I’m proud of them that these are our goals and they’re realistic goals,” Green said. “It’s a game or two here and we’re in the postseason.”

Green’s program has improved upon their win total in each of his four seasons. WSU turns its attention to 2024 with 29 wins in 2023 being the best in the Brian Green era.