Texas round up: WSU heads into games against UT Rio Grande Valley at 1-3

After striking out in their season opening series, Washington State baseball embarks on its second Texas series on Thursday against UT Rio Grande Valley in the Al Ogletree Classic.

The Cougars (1-3, 0-0) face a Vaqueros (0-4, 0-0) team that got outscored 21-10 against Abilene Christian in their season opening series last weekend.

Of those 21 runs allowed only 16 were earned with four errors committed, something Head Coach Manny Mantrana hopes to fix Thursday.

“Our biggest thing is this past weekend we made a lot of mental mistakes,” Mantrana said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Most of the time it’s going to come back and bite you. So we’ve done a lot over the last couple days to clean those things up and have them in the right mental mindset to make good decisions.”

Sophomore right-hander Johnny Gonzalez will start for UTRGV against WSU, with the Cougars putting junior Ian Hamilton on the mound for his second career start. Hamilton allowed five runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings against Texas State in his first start.

Head Coach Marty Lees sees room for improvement both from Hamilton and the defense behind the mound.

“Well he was having trouble commanding his fastball,” Lees said Wednesday in a phone interview. “There was a couple plays we could have made behind him that could have gotten him out of some things, but you know we just as a whole didn’t come out to do what we’ve been trained to do. We’ll be better this week and expect him to get back on the mound.”

The Cougars committed six errors of their own against Texas State in their opening series. Playing a significant amount of freshman and every position player on the WSU roster, the first-year coach is still working with his lineup and understanding more about his players.

 “We’re going to see how kids fit and how it works,” Lees said. “I like what Trek Stemp is doing in the leadoff role. I like where [Cameron] Frost and [Patrick] McGrath are at and I like what [Derek] Chapman did in the two-hole when he was there.”

Game-by-game changes to the lineup will continue, but Lees acknowledged a few positives that will carry over into the game against UTRGV.

“So we’re going to continue to play a lot of kids with different lineups to get them seeing balls, playing defense. I want to be able to have a little bit of maneuverability in our lineup defensively.”

First pitch between WSU and UTRGV is set for 5:00 p.m. PST on Thursday. Live stats will be provided on WSUCougars.com and on Twitter @CougBaseball.