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Cougar baseball should only improve

Sophomore+outfielder+Justin+Harrer+anticipates+a+pitch+in+a+game+against+Stephen+F.+Austin+on+March+5+at+Bailey-Brayton+Field.
Sophomore outfielder Justin Harrer anticipates a pitch in a game against Stephen F. Austin on March 5 at Bailey-Brayton Field.

Sophomore outfielder Justin Harrer anticipates a pitch in a game against Stephen F. Austin on March 5 at Bailey-Brayton Field.

Sophomore outfielder Justin Harrer anticipates a pitch in a game against Stephen F. Austin on March 5 at Bailey-Brayton Field.

CHRIS ARNESON | Evergreen columnist

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The WSU baseball team got off to a turbulent start in Head Coach Marty Lees’ debut season in 2016.

Coach Lees came to Pullman after spending three years at Oklahoma State as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator following 11 years on the coaching staff at Oregon State.

The Oregon native experienced a great deal of success in his home state, winning back-to-back national titles as a Beaver in 2006 and 2007. In Lees’ 14 years with the two programs, he helped them reach 10 NCAA Tournament berths.

Lees, who is known for his recruiting prowess, put together the 28th ranked recruiting class of 2016, according to D1Baseball.com, making youth a priority at WSU.

Similar to last season, the Cougars only have one senior on the team, along with a mix of underclassmen and transfers. Although the 2016 Cougars finished the season last in the Pac-12 at (19-35) and (11-19) in conference, this season will feature Lees’ first recruiting class, which is reason for optimism.

The Cougars’ 2017 roster features a whopping 20 underclassmen, including 10 true freshmen, nine sophomores and one redshirt freshman. WSU baseball has youth on its side going into this year’s campaign, and the team should only get better as the weather gets warmer and their chemistry builds.

WSU is coming off of a three-game sweep of the visiting Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks in its 2017 home series debut to put its season record at (6-4). In addition, in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader, the Cougars pitching staff miraculously combined for a no-hitter, a rare feat, in their 7-3 victory.

Junior left-hander Cody Anderson started the game, pitching the first six innings, while junior right-hander Joe Rosenstein and freshman right-hander Isaac Mullins came in for relief. Junior left-hander Scotty Sunitsch slammed the door in the ninth, to close out the game, giving WSU its first no-hitter since 1985 and its 24th in team history.

Up next for the Cougars, WSU will host a four-game series against the Utah Valley Wolverines, beginning with game one at 3 p.m. on Friday at Bailey-Brayton Field. Utah Valley has struggled so far this season, sitting at (3-8) and just (1-6) on the road.

With frigid weather still controlling the Pullman masses, it does not seem like baseball season yet on the Palouse. With any luck, baseball fans around campus for spring break will be able to enjoy some games this weekend that are not in subarctic temperatures. The frozen tundra does not offer much home-field advantage for the Cougars, who would rather be playing in the Arizona heat that the Mariners are experiencing in spring training.

Alas, warmer temperatures are hopefully right around the corner for all fans, players and coaches involved with Cougar baseball. Once spectators are able to stop bringing personal space heaters to the stadium, we will know the 2017 baseball season has really kicked off in Pullman.

Chris Arneson is a senior sports management major from Bothell, Washington. He can be contacted at 335-2290 or by [email protected]

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Cougar baseball should only improve