Baseball officially underway for 2014

Chris Shaw | Evergreen Baseball reporter

The Cougar baseball team held its first official practice of the 2014 season Friday on a cold evening in Pullman. 

Seniors pitcher Jason Monda, catcher Collin Slaybaugh and pitcher J.D. Leckenby are among a returning cast that will take the field in the team’s first game on Feb. 14 at Cal State Fullerton. 

With 25 letterwinners returning from last season, one might find it hard to discover a difference between this year and last, but the experience that litters this team is the difference-maker for Head Coach Donnie Marbut.

“Guys have played so much and guys have gotten better,” Marbut said. “Their games have gotten better, and a lot of their games have gotten better because they’ve played a lot. They’ve got experience, and they’re bigger and they’re stronger.”

Slaybaugh said he sees the team already shaping up to be something special this year, based on the preseason workouts leading up to the first practice. 

“We’re making progress. We definitely have a shot to be really good,” Slaybaugh said. “It all depends on how we do, day in and day out, if we can keep getting better.”

The players worked out on Friday in a practice that featured drills as well as a scrimmage game with umpires. Marbut said he saw his players in the right places at the right times and they knew how to play Cougar baseball already.

“You don’t have to teach as much. It’s a pretty experienced returning team so you would expect that to be that way,” Marbut said. 

No matter how experienced a team is, each new set of players is different so having the players go against each other in real game situations offers a chance for the coaching staff to evaluate exactly what it has going forward in the season. 

“When you’re scrimmaging, you’re gauging your team, what they can and can’t do,” Marbut said. “They’ve got to get back into the rhythm of playing ballgames. They can practice and they can drill, they’ve been doing that all year long. Now they’ve got to play and learn how to win games.”

As with every new team, young recruits get added to the mix with the veterans. Marbut said he doesn’t stress any particular area in the recruiting game, but instead he just looks for the best players possible. However, he is encouraged by the freshmen who have joined the 2014 squad. 

“What I’ve seen from this class is there’s some freshmen that are mature. They really know how to play and have some pretty good work ethic,” Marbut said. “If guys are mature and guys are under control, they have a better chance of helping you early in their career.”

Every member of the team was able to get some work in during the first practice of the year, except for junior catcher P.J. Jones, who had a virus. 

Only time will tell how good the Cougar baseball team is this season, but the players are looking forward to showing what experience and talent can produce. 

“I think we’ve got a lot of returning guys with a lot of experience, and people have been through a lot with this team,” Jason Monda said. “We have some new parts that fit well with the system we have in place. I’m excited to see what we can do once the season gets rolling.”