WSU takes two of three

The WSU baseball team continued its winning ways by picking up its second consecutive Pac-12 series win over Utah on Saturday.

After dropping the first game of the series 2-1 in extra innings on Thursday, the Cougars (20-21, 6-12) bounced back with 10-1 and 5-4 victories on Friday and Saturday.

A misplayed fly ball in left field by sophomore outfielder Justin Harrer with two outs in the 10th inning of Thursday’s game allowed the Utes (19-19, 9-12) to score the winning run.

WSU came ready to play on Friday despite the heartbreak from game one. The Cougars’ offense racked up 10 runs in the game, fueled by a seven-run explosion in the sixth inning.

The WSU pitching staff backed the offense in the game. Freshman left-hander Isaac Mullins (2-2, 5.23 ERA) turned in his best start of the season for the Cougars, allowing no hits and one run in five innings of work. Juniors Colby Nealy (4-2, 6.12 ERA) and Scotty Sunitsch (1-3, 4.02 ERA) then combined to throw four innings of scoreless ball to close out the Utes. Sunitsch’s three-inning performance earned him his team-leading eighth save.

The Cougars took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but the game was quiet until the sixth inning when the team used seven hits to open up an 8-0 advantage over Utah.

A single up the middle by freshman catcher Cal Waterman got the inning started. Two batters later, freshman second baseman Dillon Plew plated Waterman for the Cougars’ second run of the game and left runners at the corners.

After Plew’s base-hit RBI, the Cougars put together three straight hits to widen the margin to five runs.

Later in the inning, junior outfielder Blake Clanton stroked a one-out double down the left field line to score two more baserunners and put WSU ahead by seven runs. Two batters later, Waterman returned to the plate and capped the inning with an RBI-single to make the score 8-0 heading into the bottom half of the sixth.

Mullins’ walked batter in the bottom of the sixth scored Utah’s first run, but WSU added two more runs in the top of the seventh to cruise to a comfortable nine-run win.

Saturday’s rubber match provided excitement to end the three-game series.

The back-and-forth battle started with a second-inning Utah run to put the Cougars in a 1-0 hole. However, WSU used an RBI double from Plew and an RBI groundout by junior third baseman Shane Matheny in the top half of the second to go up 2-1 on the Utes.

The Utes reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the fourth as they pushed across two more runs against WSU junior left-hander Cody Anderson (4-2, 2.76 ERA) to put the Cougars in another one-run deficit. Anderson was done for the day after allowing three runs and six hits up through the fourth inning.

Despite being down by one upon Anderson’s departure from the game, WSU battled back and took a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth behind Waterman’s two-run RBI double down the left field line.

In the top of the seventh, Harrer drove a double to the gap in left-center to add a critical insurance run and increase WSU’s lead to two.

Junior right-hander Ryan Walker (4-5, 5.73 ERA) pitched the Cougars into the ninth inning behind his four-and-one-third innings of one-run ball. The Utes nipped Walker for a run in the bottom of the seventh, but WSU took a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth.

Walker departed with one out in the frame and Head Coach Marty Lees gave the ball to freshman left-hander A.J. Block (0-1, 5.00 ERA) with a runner on first. Block, who started Tuesday’s game against Gonzaga, struck out the first and only batter he faced to push WSU within an out of a series-clinching win.

Wanting to match a right-handed pitcher with a batter hitting from the right side and contrast with Block’s pitching style, Lees turned to hard-throwing sophomore Parker McFadden (0-1, 7.16 ERA) to get the game’s final out. McFadden struck out the Utes’ hitter swinging to end the game and pick up his first career save.

WSU will return home for back-to-back home sets against Oregon and UCLA. The Cougars open up against the Ducks at 5 p.m. on Friday at Bailey-Brayton Field. Junior left-hander David Peterson (9-2, 1.94 ERA), who struck out 20 batters in the Ducks’ 2-0 win over Arizona State on Friday, will start for Oregon.