Clawed by the Wolverines: Cougars lose three of four games to Utah Valley in first home series


Freshman infielder Justin Harrer prepares to field a ball during a game against Utah Valley at Bailey-Brayton Field on March 5.

Two late inning errors helped erase a six-run comeback by WSU on Sunday as the Cougars fell 10-6 to Utah Valley and lost the series 1-3.

Down 6-0 to the Wolverines (7-6) entering the bottom of the third, the Cougars (4-8) began their comeback playing small-ball. Sophomore third baseman Shane Matheny advanced freshman catcher Ty Johnson and freshman short stop Justin Herrer on a sacrifice bunt.

Sophomore left fielder Derek Chapman followed with an infield single, scoring Harrer. The second run of the inning came one at-bat later when Johnson scored from third on a sacrifice fly to center by sophomore second baseman Jack Strunc.

The Cougars continued their comeback in the bottom of the fourth with three more runs. With the bases loaded and no outs, Johnson flied out to center scoring junior first baseman Wes Leow from third to cut the Utah Valley lead to 6-3.

Chapman, who went 2 for 4 on the afternoon, delivered two more runs later in the inning with a single up the middle scoring Harrer and sophomore designated hitter Weston Hatten.

The Cougars tied the game at 6-6 in the bottom of the fifth when sophomore center fielder Cameron Frost scored from third on a error by Wolverines short stop Greyson Bogden. Seeing more pitches from UVU right-handed starter Jake Mayer (0-1) allowed for the Cougars’ offense to get going Sunday, according to Chapman.

“Just seeing that guy for a few innings,” Chapman said postgame. “They used a lot of arms this weekend. I think they were getting pretty deep into their bullpen. So we just started to see more pitches and it started to fall for us.”

However, after holding the UVU offense to just two hits from the third through fifth inning, the WSU bullpen allowed four more runs to give the Wolverines the 10-6 victory. Junior left-handed relief pitcher Layne Bruner (0-1), who pitched two innings allowing just one earned run, noticed improvements both internally and with other relievers despite the loss.

“We trust our bullpen – we have some good arms in there so when we go to our bullpen we’re pretty confident,” Bruner said. “It would have been nice to have [Ryan] Walker today and [Scotty] Sunitsch. But the guys we ran out there, I think our bullpen did a good job and we’re going to keep throwing strikes.”

After being shut out on Thursday to open the series, the Cougars scored 25 runs over the final three games, despite losing twice.

Head Coach Marty Lees noted that a team meeting in the hitting barn was a turning point for the offense this weekend.

“It might have been a talk in the hitting barn about how we’re going to do things,” Lees said Sunday. “The standards and the culture has to change if we’re going to change. If we’re going to have success on the field then we must do some things or we’re not going to.”

The Cougars return to Bailey-Brayton Field on Thursday to begin another four-game series against Northeastern University.