Cougars implode in Tempe

WSU sophomore shortstop Andres Alvarez throws to first base in a game against Utah Valley on March 11. Alvarez recorded five hits in 12 at-bats out of the leadoff spot for the Cougars in their series at Arizona State and also recorded a base on balls.

Seven errors and 12 walks marked the WSU baseball team’s sloppy defensive series at Arizona State, as the Cougars lost all three games and moved into last place in the Pac-12.

Freshman left-hander A.J. Block (0-1, 4.50 ERA) took the mound in game one on Thursday. Block made his fourth start of the season and replaced WSU’s usual series-opening starter Damon Jones (2-3, 7.14 ERA), who allowed a combined 19 earned runs in his previous two appearances. However, Block lasted just three innings.

Block allowed six runs, five of them earned, on seven hits and was yanked in favor of the redshirt junior left-hander Jones as the Cougars (15-17, 2-10) fell behind 6-1.

The Cougars attempted to make a comeback in the fifth inning. Four singles in the frame brought in a pair of runs to cut the ASU lead to three, but the Sun Devils (16-18, 5-10) picked off freshman infielder Dillon Plew at second base to end the inning and limit the damage.

One inning later, a two-out single from junior third baseman Shane Matheny scored Plew and freshman catcher Cal Waterman to make it a 6-5 game.

The Cougars’ offensive surge was quieted for the final three innings, as a single from Waterman in the eighth was WSU’s only hit the rest of the way. ASU held on to win 6-5.

WSU started Friday’s game in a similar fashion.

Junior right-hander Ryan Walker (3-4, 6.44 ERA) got the nod for the Cougars in game two, but ASU jumped on him quickly, racking up six two-out runs in the first inning. The Sun Devils sent 10 men to the plate and recorded six hits, including a double, a triple and a home run as WSU put itself behind the eight ball early on for the second time.

Walker exited in the third after allowing seven runs on seven hits and two walks. Senior left-hander Trenton Dupre (1-0, 3.32 ERA) took over in relief and allowed three more runs, two earned, in his two-and-one-third innings of work.

WSU tried to claw its way back midway through the game, as an RBI single from sophomore catcher Cory Meyer ignited a furious seventh inning rally.

Trailing 10-1, the Cougars scored six times in the frame on five hits, taking advantage of three walks and a wild pitch to send 11 batters to the plate.

Yet for the second night in a row, WSU only mustered one hit in the final two innings and its comeback fell short as ASU secured a 10-7 victory to take the series.

In the series finale on Saturday, it was the Cougars’ turn to take an early lead. Five straight hits to open the game, including a double by sophomore outfielder Justin Harrer, gave WSU an early 3-0 lead. Harrer doubled again in the second to score Waterman and increase the Cougars’ lead to four.

Four runs looked to be enough for junior left-hander Cody Anderson (3-2, 2.57 ERA), who has started the third game of every series this season for WSU. After struggling against No. 8 Arizona in his previous start, the 6-foot-6-inch southpaw was sharp against the Sun Devils.

ASU plucked one run off Anderson in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly, but did not string any hits against him in his seven innings of work. Anderson allowed just three hits on four strikeouts before giving way to junior left-hander and closer Scotty Sunitsch (0-2, 3.91 ERA) in the eighth.

Sunitsch, who leads the team with seven saves, worked around a leadoff single in the frame to preserve a 4-1 lead heading into the ninth.

Junior right-hander Colby Nealy (4-2, 7.94 ERA) came in the ninth to close out the game and promptly retired the first two batters on flyouts to right field. But from there, it all fell apart.

Eight straight balls from Nealy put runners on first and second before ASU sophomore infielder Ryan Lillard drove a two-out pinch-hit home run over the centerfield wall to tie the game at four.

Nealy then loaded the bases on two singles and a third walk, prompting Head Coach Marty Lees to turn to Jones. Jones walked the only batter he faced to bring in the runner from third and give the Sun Devils a 5-4 win and series sweep.

The Cougars left eight men on base and failed to register a run after the second inning in the loss.

The Cougars face Gonzaga (20-14, 11-4) at 6 p.m. tonight in Spokane.