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

Some highs, lots of lows, nonetheless WSU baseball controls its destiny

Cougs sit seventh in Pac-12 entering home three versus Cal
The snow delays the first home game of the 2024 WSU baseball season, March 1, in Pullman, Wash.

Cole Cramer found himself starting something, not once, but twice April 7 versus the Stanford Cardinal.

Cramer scored both the tying and the winning run for the Cougars.

Wazzu’s 9-7 extra-inning comeback victory over Stanford saw the Wazzu offense flash its potential. After falling behind 7-2 in the fourth inning, Wazzu chipped away at the Cardinal’s lead.

Logan Johnstone, who had an RBI single in the third inning, sent a ball over the right field fence in the fifth inning to make it a 7-4 game.

In the sixth inning, Casen Taggart singled with the bases loaded for 2 RBI. WSU trailed by one run, 7-6.

In the ninth inning, Cramer stung the ball out to right. The Stanford right fielder touched the ball with his glove but did not secure it as it lasered out to his left. Cramer was rounding first when he saw the ball tail off toward the fence and got all the way to third on the error.

WSU junior Will Creswell gave Stanford fans an amazing view of a timeless baseball tradition as he laid down the bunt to score Cramer from third.

Cresswell was not playing catcher as he usually does for the Cougars though. After pinch-hitting, he logged some time in the field as a second baseman where he started a double play to send Wazzu to extra innings.

In the 11th inning, Cramer got aboard with a double to right-center and scored on Cresswell’s double. Max Hartman, who was 2-for-6 from the lead-off spot entering his final at-bat, zipped the ball up the middle to score Cresswell. After trailing 7-2, Wazzu led, 9-7.

After starter Spencer Jones got rattled for six runs in 3.0 innings, Kevin Hayes pitched an inning allowing one earned run.

Down 7-2, the Cougs turned to senior Duke Brotherton, who in Wazzu’s 12-5 win over UCLA pitched a career-best 5.0 innings with one earned run. He topped that performance near Silicon Valley.

Brotherton pitched 5.1 scoreless innings, striking out one, walking one and allowing three hits. His new career-best gave the Cougar offense the opportunity to string no more than two-run innings together to tie the game in the ninth.

Kaden Wickersham was tasked with finding the final five outs. He pitched 1.2 scoreless frames with one walk and one hit allowed.

The Cougar bullpen and defense kept them in this one after a rough start. Cresswell’s double play sent the Cougs to extras, Brotherton and Wickersham hung zeros and Oregon State transfer Ely Kennel, who pinch-hit and moved to left field in the fifth inning made the ranging grab in the 11th to secure WSU’s 9-7 11-inning win.

This is what baseball is all about. A series of solid plays and effort, strung together into victory.

Baseball as a game of failure is an accurate idea in that failing at the plate 70% of the time is still considered a success. Allowing three runs, and pitching six innings is considered a quality start. There is some built-in room for error to be expected in baseball.

Unfortunately for the Cougs, they have encountered a bit too much failure to win baseball games. Struggle was to be expected in head coach Nathan Choate’s first year at the helm, but the process is what counts.

WSU baseball sports a .500 record with 17-17 and a losing record in Pac-12 Conference play at 7-8 entering its three-game home series with Cal.

WSU is in seventh place in the Pac-12 with one month left in the regular season. If the season were to end today, the Cougs would be bound for their first (and final as we knew it) Pac-12 baseball tournament in Scottsdale, Arizona. WSU has been the first team out in each of the tournament’s first two years.

The Cougs’ comeback victory over Stanford is one of several highlight-reel victories and their first win since a 4-0 drumming of the Dawgs March 28 in Seattle in which senior starter Grant Taylor struck out a program-record 17 Husky hitters.

“I can’t ev-. I can’t. It was a lot of fun. We’re having so much fun,” Taylor said after the game.

WSU lost the three-game set to UW however by allowing a combined 25 runs over the next two games, losing 14-5 and 11-5. UW flipped the script, using two pitchers to strike out 14 Cougs March 29 as Husky hitters smacked five home runs, including two from Aiva Arquette. Conner Wilford allowed six runs (three earned) and Ryan Orr allowed five runs (four earned).

Game three did not go much better as senior Chase Grillo allowed four runs (three earned) without securing an out.

Against Stanford, WSU lost the first two games 5-3 and 3-1, as the offense continued to struggle while pitching did measurably better. Sunday’s 9-7 11-inning win was exactly what WSU needed to snap a four-game slide.

It did not mark the end of losing for Wazzu. Tumwater High School’s Orr got his first career start Tuesday in Spokane against Gonzaga.

The Zags scored two touchdowns as WSU rolled out three pitchers in the first inning, only one of which snagged an out.

Orr faced four batters in his first career start and allowed four runs. Orr’s Thurston County neighbor, redshirt freshman Rylan Haider of Olympia High School, relieved Orr but also could not find an out, allowing four more runs in his sixth appearance.

Carson Judd became the third Coug to pitch the first, finding all three outs, but not before allowing six runs.

WSU trailed 14-0 after one inning and lost 22-7.

The lows are low. Baseball is so dependent on individual success, but can not be carried by a few individuals alone.

“We still control our own destiny, if you will,” Choate said in a Daily Evergreen article. “I want us playing our best baseball at the end of the year.”

When the Cougs resume their Pac-12 schedule next weekend versus Arizona, they do so with a shot at their first Conference Tournament in program history entirely within their grasp. With the sweep, Cal leapfrogged WSU in the Pac-12 standings as WSU sits in eighth place. The top nine teams make the Pac-12 baseball tournament.

The Cougs were tied with Cal 2-2 Saturday until Pac-12 umpires exercised their own brand of chaos calls. As Cal freshman Jag Burden approached the plate, Jones covered home, caught the ball and attempted to tag the runner. Burden ran right into Jones knocking both of them to the ground. The umpires ejected Burden, promptly ejected Cal’s third base coach when he argued the call.

They then reviewed the play. After a lengthy 10-minute review process, they overturned the call and called the runner safe. Cal took a 3-2 lead.

Choate and two of his assistants argued the call and were ejected for arguing. After this conundrum, the Cougs allowed eight runs in the ninth inning to lose 11-5.

Sunday was not much better: an uninspiring 8-2 loss.

WSU is at a season-low. The offense struggles to generate more than five runs in an explosive Pac-12 Conference and the pitching staff struggles to locate pitches and beat Pac-12 hitters. Seniors Grant Taylor and Connor Wilford continue to impress and Max Hartman, Joey Kramer and Cole Cramer have 40+ hits with a month left.

While the Cougs may control their own destiny, they have a lot of work to do to restore fan confidence.

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About the Contributors
SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports co-editor
Sam is a senior multimedia journalism major from Lacey, Washington and the sports editor for spring 2024. He was the sports editor for the 2022-23 school year and managing editor for the summer and fall 2023. He plays the trumpet in the Cougar Marching Band, loves sports and has worked at the Evergreen since fall 2021.
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.