Cougars battle Golden Bears in Pullman

Against Cal, WSU looks to build off shut out victory over Oregon


OLIVER MCKENNA | Daily Evergreen File

Junior right-handed pitcher Nick Strange avoids being hit by a pitch against Saint Mary’s on March 8 at Bailey–Brayton Field.

COLIN CONNOLLY, Evergreen reporter

Cougar baseball will take the field against University of California, Berkeley, on Friday. The team is coming off a feat that hasn’t been done at WSU in 42 years.

Senior left-handed pitcher Scotty Sunitsch tossed a solo nine-inning no-hitter against University of Oregon on Sunday, the 25th in school history.

Head Coach Marty Lees said it was a special moment for the entire team.

“It was an amazing thing to watch in the dugout,” Lees said. “You could just see it as it was evolving — some of the pitches he made, and some of the plays that were made on defense. He just kept getting stronger and stronger.”

Sunitsch said it was the first no-hitter he had thrown at this level of competition, and he realized toward the seventh inning he only needed so many more outs to secure it.

“It was something else,” Sunitsch said. “I really didn’t expect it.”

Curbing his thoughts and anxiety about the possibility of a no-hitter during the game was something Sunitsch admitted added pressure he hadn’t dealt with before.

Sunitsch will take the mound again for the Cougars (9-17, 4-8) to face the Golden Bears (18-11, 5-7) in hopes of building off of his last performance.

This is a big series for WSU, as Cal is only one game ahead in the Pac-12 standings. Sunitsch said his teammates try not to think about that, but it’s always in the back of their minds.

He said the Cougars want to take advantage of teams like the Golden Bears that are just ahead of them in the standings, because at the end of the season, a series win over a Pac-12 foe can make a big difference.

Last year, the Cougars got swept by the Golden Bears in a three-game series in Berkeley. Sunitsch never saw the field in that series and is looking forward to making a difference this time, hopefully handing the ball off to a relief pitcher late in the game.

“If I don’t make it nine innings, I don’t make it nine innings,” Sunitsch said, “but I’ll be mad if I come out.”

Sunitsch said that as he has gained more innings and more experience, he has been able to adjust to being a starting pitcher after being the Cougars’ closer last season. He has seven starts for the Cougars this season, striking out 30 batters and allowed 14 earned runs on 33 hits.

The Golden Bears have a lot of crafty hitters who really know how to take advantage of any mistake a team makes, Sunitsch said.

The key for the Cougars’ pitchers will be to get ahead in the count and not let the Cal hitters into favorable spots.

“I’m just not going to be afraid to go after their hitters with everything I’ve got,” Sunitsch said.

The first game of the three-game series is scheduled to start 5 p.m. Friday at Bailey-Brayton Field. The game can also be seen on the WSU Live Stream.