Baseball goes down swinging in season opener


WSU Men’s Baseball players spectate from the dugout during an away game at Cal State Fullerton, Friday, Feb. 14.

A dramatic weekend in California ended abruptly for the WSU Cougars as the baseball team lost 12-7 Monday to UC Riverside.

The loss drops WSU’s record to 1-3 on the season. Meanwhile, Riverside moves to 3-1 with the victory.

The Cougars fell into a hole early in the game as the Highlanders scored two runs in the bottom half of the first, off of starting pitcher Jason Monda. Monda, who also plays outfield, lasted only three innings, giving up five of Riverside’s 17 total hits on the day.

The two runs scored against Monda were both unearned, but his pitch count grew too high, which seems to have been the story for many of the Cougars’ pitchers during the road trip.

WSU tied the score in the top of the third with a sacrifice fly by Collin Slaybaugh and a walk from Riverside starter Zach Varela. The Cougars then took the lead in the top of the fourth with three runs, two of which were unearned, to make the score 5-2.

One of those unearned runs was driven in by a single from center fielder Trek Stemp, who is now second on the team in RBIs and hits. 

However, the Cougars coughed up the lead when Jacob Schroeder replaced Monda on the mound. Schroeder gave up four runs on five hits in one inning of work and exited the game after he allowed a leadoff single to start the bottom of the fifth inning.

The fifth inning turned out to be the biggest of the day for UC Riverside, as they tallied four more runs, one of which was credited to Schroeder and the other three of which belonged to the Cougars’ third pitcher of the day, Layne Bruner.

As Riverside continued to tack on more runs to reach its final total, the Cougars remained dormant until the top of the eighth, when they scored twice on RBI singles from first baseman Matt Mendenhall and second baseman Ian Sagdal.

Designated hitter Patrick McGrath, who went 3 for 4 on the day and scored twice, began the short rally with a double to left field. 

Third baseman Nick Tanielu had a cold day, going 0 for 3 with a walk, but still leads the team in batting average, hits and slugging percentage. 

Friday was nothing to write home about as the Cougars suffered a 12-0 trouncing at the hands of the Cal State Fullerton Titans, who entered the 2014 season as the No. 1 team in the nation. 

Starter Scott Simon lasted only two innings, surrendering six runs and seven hits. Sophomore ace Thomas Eshelman of the Titans proved too much for the Cougars as he allowed only three hits over seven innings of work, striking out eight. 

The Cougars stormed back on Saturday with a gritty 9-7 victory in 11 innings. Jason Monda delivered a two-run single in the top of the eleventh to give the Cougars the lead, and freshman Ian Hamilton shut the door on the Titans in their half of the inning. Hamilton pitched three innings of shut-out ball in relief and earned the win. 

The series concluded with another close game between the two teams, but that one was decided in nine innings. 

WSU tried to send the game into extras as Slaybaugh hit a pinch-hit single on the tenth pitch of his at-bat to score Sagdal, who had drawn a leadoff walk in the top of the ninth. 

However, in the bottom of the ninth, first baseman Greg Velazquez of the Titans doubled to lead off the inning, and after a sacrifice bunt, Jared Deacon hit a ground ball to the right side that bounced off the glove of Mendenhall at first base. Velazquez scored and the Titans won the game 5-4, winning the series as well. 

The Cougars will play their home opener Friday against Western Carolina. The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at Bailey-Brayton Field.