Cougar baseball duels with Ducks

Pac-12 rankings are up for grabs this weekend as the WSU Cougars take on the Oregon Ducks in Eugene, Ore., for a three-game series. 

Both the Ducks and the Cougars enter the matchup with 7-5 records in the conference, which makes the series all the more important to win. 

A win for the Cougars will not be easy as he Ducks are riding a six-game winning streak. The Cougars also lost all three games they played against the Ducks last season, even though they were each decided by three runs or fewer. Furthermore, the Ducks are 15-5 at home and are ranked as high as 10th in the nation by Collegiate Baseball and the NCBWA.

Sophomore third baseman Mitchell Tolman was named the NCBWA hitter of the week on Tuesday for his performance against Portland and UC Riverside. In the five games against those two teams, Tolman batted .600 with six RBIs and five runs scored, which helped the Ducks win all five. 

While Tolman leads the team in hitting with a .351 average, two other hitters are hitting above .300 as well. Senior Tyler Baumgartner leads the team in doubles with 16, and redshirt junior Kyle Garlick has the second-most home runs on the team with three. Junior Shaun Chase, who has the most with four homers, has only 57 at-bats this season in 29 games played. 

However, those hitters might hit a roadblock this weekend. WSU junior starter Joe Pistorese earned the Pac-12 Conference Pitcher of the Week honor for last week and has thrown two consecutive complete games for the Cougars. Pistorese limited the Oregon State Beavers to one run in his most recent outing. The Beavers are ranked in the top five in all four major polls. 

Junior Yale Rosen and redshirt sophomore Nick Tanielu will likely be the main sources of runs for WSU this weekend. These two hitters have combined for 42 RBIs this season, leading the charge from the middle of the order. Senior Collin Slaybaugh has raised his average to .305, and has been a reliable for getting on base ahead of Rosen and Tanielu. 

Game 1 of the series begins Thursday at 6 p.m. Pistorese will face junior starter Tommy Thorpe. Game 2, which is set for 6 p.m. Friday, will be a matchup between junior Tanner Chleborad and redshirt senior Jeff Gold. On paper, this game looks to be the toughest for the Cougar offense as Gold is a perfect 8-0 on the season. He carries a 2.54 ERA into the series, and hitters have posted a measly .208 batting average against him. 

The final game of the series will feature senior Jason Monda against freshman Trent Paddon and is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday.