Cougars take on offensive powerhouse No. 9 Arizona

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Cougars take on offensive powerhouse No. 9 Arizona

Sophomore infielder Andres Alvarez throws a runner out against Cal State Northridge on March 25.

Sophomore infielder Andres Alvarez throws a runner out against Cal State Northridge on March 25.

Sophomore infielder Andres Alvarez throws a runner out against Cal State Northridge on March 25.

Sophomore infielder Andres Alvarez throws a runner out against Cal State Northridge on March 25.

NICK THOMAS | Evergreen reporter

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The WSU baseball team (14-12, 1-5) looks to bounce back against No. 9 Arizona (21-7, 5-4) this weekend after getting swept by the California Bears last week, a series in which the WSU pitching staff gave up 28 runs to a statistically poor Bears offense.

“It was a disappointing weekend as a whole,” said Head Coach Marty Lees. “I think our players are just as disappointed, but we’ll have a good practice the next couple days and get back on track.”

The Cougars will need to pitch better than they have as of late to compete against a Wildcat roster that has won five straight ballgames and has given itself at least a four-run cushion in every contest.

Arizona is led by junior infielder JJ Matijevic. The Pennsylvania native has started all 28 games for the Wildcats with a batting average of .389 and a team-leading five home runs.

The Arizona offensive onslaught continues with five other hitters who have kept their averages over .300 on the season.

“[Arizona’s] offense is very good,” Lees said. “I think it is one of the tops in the whole country in virtually all categories … they had a big weekend against USC, played Arizona State last night and did well, so I expect them to come in ready to play.”

One of the few blemishes on the Wildcats’ stat line is their winning percentage away from Tucson. Arizona is just (2-6) when playing away, including a 13-1 blowout loss to Texas Tech early in the season. With that said, the Wildcats’ away record is skewed after they were swept in three games by No. 1 Oregon State.

Statistics aside, if the Cougars perform like they did against California and Pacific they will likely be swept.

“[I want to see] virtually the complete opposite of what we did last weekend,” said Lees. “I want to see us come in throwing strikes at the bottom of the zone, throwing the second pitch for a strike, and then, when we get the chance to have runners in scoring position, take advantage of those.”

Against a powerhouse like Arizona, WSU can have no margin for error. The Wildcats lead the Pac-12 in runs, putting up 99 more than the top ranked Beavers.

Tonight’s undetermined starter will face a Wildcat line-up that blows the rest of the conference out of the water in most offensive statistics. In a conference stacked with nationally ranked teams, the Arizona Wildcats have proven to be the most prolific offense of the bunch.

WSU will enter the series against Arizona boasting the second-highest total in the runs allowed category, along with a bottom two ERA and a third worst .965 fielding percentage.

The Cougars will need some special performances in order to overcome the mountain that is the 2016 College World Series runner-up, and the first place to look is junior left-hander Cody Anderson.

Anderson leads WSU’s starting rotation with a 2.37 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 38 innings pitched.

The Marysville native took the mound for the start of the Cougars’ combined no-hitter earlier in the season and has remained a standout in WSU’s weekend rotation. Despite his struggles last Sunday, Lees thinks that Anderson will bounce back from his rough outing.

“[Anderson] didn’t pitch to his capability this weekend,” Lees said. “He found himself behind in counts, he found himself leaving balls up in the zone, but he knows, because he’s mature and he’s been through it before.”

The Cougars open the three-game series against the Wildcats at 5 p.m. tonight at Bailey-Brayton Field. Saturday’s game is set for a 2 p.m. start time and Sunday’s game will begin at 1 p.m. All three games can be watched on the WSU livestream.