Battling the Bears; WSU baseball hosts California

The Washington State Cougars will face a whole new beast from the Pac-12 Conference when the California Golden Bears visit Bailey-Brayton Field this weekend. 

Both schools enter the three-game series at 3-3 in conference play. Three seems to be the magic number for both California and WSU, as each are riding a three-game winning streak as well. 

The Cougars are trying to keep their offense as hot as it looked in the last game they played against the San Jose State Spartans last weekend. WSU scored 16 runs in that game and knocked 20 hits. The Cougars are also 10-2 this season when they take the lead first. 

“We’re capable of anything, to be honest,” junior infielder Ian Sagdal said. “We could score, and I’m not kidding, 50 runs if we really are just dialed in and everyone is seeing the ball well.”

As a team, WSU has a batting average of .270, which is good for fifth in the Pac-12. The Cougars are anchored in the middle of their lineup by junior outfielder Yale Rosen, who enters the series with a slash line of .363/.453/.593. Rosen has hit safely in 11 of the last 12 games. 

Redshirt sophomore third baseman Nick Tanielu has also surged back to the form he had early in the season when he led the team in hitting. He is currently on a seven-game hitting streak and has reached base in 10 straight games. 

Meanwhile, California is ranked second to last in the conference with a .238 team average. Junior infielder Brenden Farney leads the Golden Bears with a .375 batting average and 14 RBIs but has only played in 19 of the team’s 26 games. 

Junior utility player Derek Campbell, one of only two players on the roster to play and start all 26 games, leads the team with five home runs. 

“The entire pitching staff needs to give up one or less runs and pound the strings,” WSU freshman closer Ian Hamilton said. Hamilton leads the NCAA in saves by freshmen and leads the Pac-12 in saves with nine so far this season. 

The California pitchers have made up for the offense’s aggregate lack of production. The pitching staff has held opponents to an equally-low batting average of .248. Senior left-hander Kyle Porter has been the best and most consistent of the starters and will pitch in Saturday’s game for the Golden Bears. Porter is 4-1 in seven starts with a 2.75 ERA in 39 1/3 innings. He has struck out 30 and walked 10. 

While starting pitching has been a hit-or-miss category for the Golden Bears team this season, the bullpen has excelled because of three relievers. Closer senior Trevor Hildenberger has seven saves and is 1-1 in 13 total appearances. Hildenberger has 20 strikeouts and a 2.11 ERA, providing a reliable option at the end of games. 

Junior Keaton Siomkin and freshman Lucas Erceg have also done their share of shutting down opposing hitters. Both have ERAs less than 2.00 and have held opposing hitters to a batting average below .210. 

“If we jump out like we can and just continue, it won’t matter who they put in,” Sagdal said. “They’re just not going to have a chance against us if we really play and dial in like we can.”

The Cougars plan to have junior Joe Pistorese pitch Friday against freshman Daulton Jefferies. Junior Tanner Chleborad will oppose Porter on Saturday, and senior Jason Monda will finish the series on Sunday against sophomore Ryan Mason. 

Game 1 of the series is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.