Cougars face Niagara in first baseball home series

Team looks to keep rolling coming off first series win of the season against Rutgers



Then-freshman right-handed pitcher Connor Barison pitches against Stanford on March 31 at Bailey-Brayton Field.

The WSU baseball team plays its first home series this season against the Niagara University Purple Eagles this weekend at Bailey-Brayton Field.

The Cougars (5-6) are coming off a series win against Rutgers University. Meanwhile Niagara (5-4) won its previous series against Cornell University.

Sophomore pitcher Zane Mills has been the Cougar’s most effective pitcher this season. Mills is 3-0 with an ERA of 0.95 and 25 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched. In his last start against Rutgers on Saturday, Mills allowed no runs and recorded 10 strikeouts in 7.2 innings. Senior pitcher AJ Block has thrown 10 strikeouts in each of his past two starts and has an ERA of 2.57 in 21 innings pitched.

After the game against California State University, Northridge in February, head coach Brian Green said the team needs to start hitting the fastball or it would be a tough year. In the series against Rutgers, the team did exactly that. WSU scored 20 runs in three games over the weekend and recorded a team total of 23 hits.

Sophomore first baseman Kyle Manzardo is the team’s leading hitter. Manzardo is batting .375 and has four RBIs in 40 at-bats. Junior outfielder Justin Van De Brake is leading the team in RBIs with 10 and is batting .275 at the plate.

“Just working hard everyday,” Van De Brake said. “I like working with Coach Green. He knows what he’s doing.”

Niagara is coming off a series where they scored at least five runs in each of the three games. Junior outfielder Dawson Bailey leads the team with 12 hits and 12 runs scored. Sophomore infielder Cole O’Connor is the top hitter with an average of .364 at the plate. Senior first baseman Peter Battaglia leads the Purple Eagles in RBIs with 9.

Sophomore pitcher Jacob Bruning recorded a 0.68 ERA in 13.1 innings pitched for the Purple Eagles. Bruning has allowed one earned run all season and has recorded a team-high 21 strikeouts. Freshman pitcher Zach Cameron has not allowed a run or hit this season and has thrown 9 strikeouts in 5.1 innings pitched.

This series is the first home series for the Cougars. Construction is being done around the field to build a new clubhouse. According to WSU athletic communications, the new facility will improve the game day experience for players, coaches and fans, and provide improved public restrooms and concessions.

The clubhouse will also include a new 1,300 square-foot locker room and a 1,500 square-foot weight and cardio room for the players.

“We’re really excited,” Van De Brake said. “Hopefully we can get some more fans out here.”

The Cougars play the Purple Eagles in the first game of the four-game series Thursday at 3:05 p.m. at Bailey-Brayton Field in Pullman.