WSU baseball hosts Texas State

Chris Shaw | Evergreen baseball reporter

The climb back to .500 begins Friday as the Washington State Cougar baseball team faces the Texas State Bobcats for a three-game series at Bailey-Brayton Field. 

This matchup represents the last tune-up before the Cougars play their first Pac-12 baseball against the Arizona Wildcats. The Bobcats, entering the series with a 9-3 record, will provide a fair test for the Cougars. Their seven-game winning streak was snapped Wednesday night with a 3-2 home loss to Valparaiso that lasted 10 innings. 

Earlier this season, Texas State also swept UC Riverside, a team that shellacked the Cougars in a 12-7 loss in February. 

The Cougars enter the series at 2-7, but with an improving pitching staff that gave up a lot of runs to begin the season. WSU pitchers held Cal State Northridge to four runs in three games, despite losing the series last weekend. 

“At times this year, we’ve pitched good, at times we’ve played good defense, and at times we have swung the bat,” Head Coach Donnie Marbut said. “We just haven’t done it at the same time, so once we do it at the same time, we’re going to be dangerous.”

They could have their hands full this weekend facing Tyler Pearson, who has started 11 of the 12 games the Bobcats have played this season. Pearson has three home runs and a .351 batting average. The only player with a higher average than Pearson is Matt Smith, who has only appeared in five games this season. 

Garrett Mattlage also presents a threat at the plate with his ability to drive in runs. So far, he leads the team with 10 RBIs. 

Home-field advantage could play a large role for the Cougars, seeing as the Bobcats have played only one game outside of their home ballpark this season, and none outside of the state of Texas. The Bobcats’ only away game was played against Rice University in Houston, Texas. 

The Cougars will look to ignite their bats over the weekend, even in the colder Pullman weather. WSU is batting .237 as a team, and will face a quality Bobcats pitching staff with three stellar starters. 

“We’re just going to try to take away the fastball first and barrel balls up, and score runs,” infielder Matt Mendenhall said. “We haven’t done that in the last couple games and the biggest emphasis is to score runs.”

Lucas Humpal, Taylor Black and Austen Williams will all pitch this weekend against the Cougars, in that order. Williams has a 1.86 ERA, which is the lowest of the three, in his three starts this season. He is 2-0 with 20 strikeouts. Humpal is the pitcher the Bobcats count on most for the strikeout, though. The sophomore has 23 in 18 2/3 innings of work. 

WSU will counter with Jason Monda on Friday, Joe Pistorese on Saturday, and Tanner Chleborad on Sunday. Monda and Pistorese have anchored the pitching staff of late, and Pistorese has recently earned a spot in the starting rotation with a 2.35 ERA through four appearances and one start. 

Monda, on the other hand, has not allowed an earned run in his two starts this season. He will throw the first pitch of Friday’s game at 6 p.m. at Bailey-Brayton Field.