The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Baseball will face round-robin of opponents in upcoming weekend

Ranked Kentucky, Kansas, Texas State on weekend slate
WSU infielder Kyle Russell throws the ball to first base during an NCAA baseball game against UW, Sunday, May 7th, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

After starting the season with a series win over Utah Tech, WSU baseball (3-1) continues their road trip to start the season as they head over to Round Rock, Texas, to take on a round-robin of opponents. 

First up, at noon Friday, the Cougs have their hardest bout on paper. In a neutral site, they take on No. 24 Kentucky (4-0), who opened their season with a clean series sweep over USC Upstate and then a 9-5 win over Morehead State. 

[This weekend’s] an opportunity for our guys to challenge themsevles. That’s the biggest thing,” head coach Nathan Choate said in the WSU baseball podcast. “What an opportunity for our guys. This should be the best time of their lives, being a college baseball player.”

It has been over two decades since the Wildcats and Cougs last faced off, a two-game series sweep for WSU in College Station. The rosters are long changed, but history favors the Pullman boys. 

Senior Grant Taylor got the nod in the first Friday game of the season, going 5.0 innings and giving up five earned runs. Kentucky has scored no less than three runs a game to start the season, scoring at least nine runs in three of their four contests. 

Of players with at least five at-bats, four Kentucky players have an OPS above .800 and three have an OPS above 1.150. The Wildcats have been a more small-ball team, having just 13 extra-base hits but drawing 17 walks and going a perfect 14-14 on stolen base attempts.

Catchers will have a tough time nailing runners, as from top to bottom the ‘Cats have speed. Eight different players already have a stolen base and four have multiple, led by Devin Burkes at a perfect 3-for-3 on the base paths. 

A dominating offense has been supplemented by an efficient pitching staff, who is giving up 3.75 runs per game, including one shutout in their sweep over USC Upstate. 

Kentucky’s Dominic Niman had the best showing for the team so far, pitching 5.0 innings in his start while giving up just four hits and one walk while striking out six. 

WSU, on the other hand, is a lineup without easy outs, averaging 7.25 runs per game, the Cougs flexed their power with 22 extra-base hits, including nine home runs in the opening series. Even then, it was not a perfect showing in the first weekend. 

“Obviously, we hit for some power. But there’s some things we need to clean up,” Choate said.

Choate’s squad has a quick turnaround as at noon Saturday, they take on Kansas (2-2) in another neutral site game. There is little history between the two programs, having only met once in 2015, an 8-5 win for the Cougs, a game that included former Coug and current MLB player Ian Hamilton. 

Kansas opened the season with two losses to Illinois-Chicago despite scoring 15 runs. Despite securing the series loss, they came out of it with a win in game three, an 8-2 win over the Flames. 

They also had a one-game series, just like Kentucky, and they too, came out of it with a win. In a neutral site battle with Texas A&M Corpus Christi 13-7. The Jayhawks fell behind early 4-0, after the top of the second inning, but came out with a five-run bottom of the second to take their first lead. 

Tied 7-7 after six innings, the pitching staff shut out their opposition for the final three frames while scoring one run in the bottom of the seventh and five runs in the bottom of the eighth to pick up their second win and improve to .500 on the season. 

Kodey Shojinaga and Collier Cranford have led the Kansas offense with Shojinaga leading the team with a dominant 1.683 OPS and Cranford sporting a 1.007 OPS. 

Shojinaga is slashing .500/.571/1.111 with three home runs and 20 total bases. Statistically speaking and just by looking at those numbers, at this point in the season, it would be smarter to intentionally walk the freshman every time he steps up to the plate. 

Last on the slate is Texas State (3-1), the only team the Cougs have played in multiple different years prior to this matchup this weekend. The two programs will face off at 4 p.m. Sunday. 

It has been a relatively evenly matched series all time, with WSU holding a 3-4 record against the program. Last battling in 2016, the Cougs are winners of the final game of that series, holding a one-game win streak over the Bobcats. 

Starting the season off with a bang, the Bobcats beat Youngstown State 20-2 on opening night before sweeping the three-game series. In their own one-game series, they fell in a close 5-6 loss to No. 5 TCU. 

After falling behind 5-0 after three innings, Texas State got runs back with grit, scoring one run in the fourth, three in the fifth and finally one in the eighth. But, the Horned Frogs got an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh to secure the hard-fought win. 

Overall, the team is hitting .317 with an OPS of 1.007 while also sporting a 1.91 ERA, a dominant team in all levels while proving they can hold their own and then some against one of the nation’s best.

For WSU, there is a lot to look forward to this weekend, namely whether or not several bats can continue their hot starts. Alan Shibley slashed .471/.550/1.176 in the opening weekend, but health is still a big concern returning from an injury.

“Getting back out there and getting able to compete with all my brothers out there was a lot of fun,” Shibley said. “I’ve been focusing a lot on the mental part of the game. Trying to utilize positive thinking a lot.”

More to Discover
About the Contributors
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.
HAILEE SPEIR, Evergreen photo editor
Hailee Speir is a photographer for the Daily Evergreen. Hailee is a junior English education major from Spokane, Washington. Hailee started working for the Evergreen in fall 2021 as a photographer.