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Cougars finally gearing up for home opener

Baseball returns to Pullman after playing eight road games

Then+sophomore+Andres+Alvarez+runs+toward+first+base+in+a+game+against+Utah+Valley+March+11%2C+2017+at+Bailey%E2%80%93Brayton+Field.+Alvarez+has+a+.355+batting+average+so+far+this+season.
Then sophomore Andres Alvarez runs toward first base in a game against Utah Valley March 11, 2017 at Bailey–Brayton Field. Alvarez has a .355 batting average so far this season.

Then sophomore Andres Alvarez runs toward first base in a game against Utah Valley March 11, 2017 at Bailey–Brayton Field. Alvarez has a .355 batting average so far this season.

KYLE TUCKER | Daily Evergreen File

KYLE TUCKER | Daily Evergreen File

Then sophomore Andres Alvarez runs toward first base in a game against Utah Valley March 11, 2017 at Bailey–Brayton Field. Alvarez has a .355 batting average so far this season.

RYAN BLAKE, Evergreen reporter

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Snow covered the stands at Bailey-Brayton Field on Tuesday as WSU baseball practiced before this week’s four-game home opening series against Saint Mary’s College.

The Cougars (2-6) were scheduled to play their home opener last week against California State University, Sacramento, before the four-game series was cancelled due to weather. Head Coach Marty Lees said he would have preferred to play those four games, but was still satisfied with the preparation his team got.

“It allowed us to focus on some things that we didn’t do well on our road trip, unfortunately,” Lees said. “We did the things that we could while we had that time off to really focus on things we needed to do to get better.”

WSU is coming off a three-game losing streak against University of Alabama on the road, where they were outscored by the Crimson Tide 29-9.

Bad fundamentals and bad luck have plagued the Cougars early in the season. They are currently last in the Pac-12 in runs allowed with 60 and last in runs scored with 28.

“We’ve got to work on all phases of the game to get better, and I’m very confident we’re going to do those things,” Lees said. “I think with more time and patience from our staff, and grind by [the team], we can be a good hitting team and have a good offense.”

The Gaels (7-3) enter the weekend after a strong opening to their season, taking two of three games from both California State University, Long Beach, and Arizona State University before sweeping Xavier University in another three-game series.

Lees said Saint Mary’s is a talented, well-coached team with a good pitching staff. He said it will be a good challenge for his side.

First baseman senior James Rudkin said the Cougars will have to limit their mistakes against Saint Mary’s, a team that has been making clutch plays all season.

“They just play good fundamental baseball,” Rudkin said, “throw strikes, make plays and get timely hits.”

The Cougars will send sophomore left-handed pitcher A.J. Block to the mound Thursday night to open the series. Block allowed one earned run and struck out three batters in four and one-third innings during his last start against Grand Canyon University.

Redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Isaac Mullins will start for the Cougars on Friday. Mullins was dominant in his first start of the year against University of California, Riverside, striking out seven in five innings of work, but he struggled against Alabama.

Lees said Saturday and Sunday’s starters will be decided as the series progresses over the first two games.

WSU will walk onto Bailey-Brayton Field to play an opponent for the first time this season at 1 p.m. Thursday. The game can also be seen on WSU Live Stream.

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Cougars finally gearing up for home opener