Baseball to hold exhibition game against CWU

RYAN BLAKE | Evergreen reporter

The WSU baseball team will scrimmage Central Washington University on Saturday at Bailey-Brayton Field. The game is part of Cougar baseball’s Alumni Weekend.

The two-day event begins Friday with team batting practice at 2:30 p.m. WSU will play an intrasquad scrimmage following practice an hour later.

“I think it is important for our players to embrace the tradition and passion that you, the Cougar baseball alumni, have created,” Head Coach Marty Lees said in a news release. “The tradition and passion will help build the future of Cougar Baseball.”

A tailgate dinner and team social will take place at the field following the scrimmage at 5 p.m. Food will be provided by Fork in the Road.

The scrimmage against CWU will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday.

All Cougar baseball alumni and their families, as well as current players and their families, are invited to participate in the weekend’s events.

The scrimmage is the first game WSU baseball will play since the conclusion of the 2017 season, which featured 18 new faces and 17 returners, after the coaching staff overhauled the team. Lees rostered just one senior in 2017, and four freshmen became key parts of the Cougar lineup.

WSU finished the season with a 24-29 record and 10-20 conference record in a year full of highs and lows.

A six-game winning streak in March marked the best stretch for Cougar baseball since 2010. Less than a month later, WSU dropped seven of eight games.

The Cougs looked as if they got their season back on track in early May after winning four straight series’ against Pac-12 opponents, including taking two of three from both No. 30 Washington and No. 28 UCLA.

But, the Cougars lost their last seven games, swept by No. 1 Oregon State and No. 8 Stanford.

At first glance, the 2017 Cougars look comparable to the 2016 team, which finished with a 17-29 overall record. The 2017 squad was a vastly improved side on offense, though.

The Cougars improved their team on-base percentage from .308 in 2016 to .357 in 2017. Seven players posted an on-base percentage of .350 or higher, up from two players the season prior.

After finishing dead last in the Pac-12 in nearly every category in 2016, the 2017 WSU baseball team finished fifth in on-base percentage and fourth in doubles (105). In fact, the Cougars were one of the top offenses in the conference through March, before faltering during their second-half slump.

However, the 2017 team gave up 327 total runs throughout the season, identical to the 327 runs given up by the 2016 side. WSU finished ninth in the conference with a 5.50 ERA last season.

The Cougars return eight of their nine offensive starters in 2018, after losing third baseman Shane Matheny to the MLB draft. Relievers Damon Jones and Colby Nealy were also drafted and will not return to Pullman.

There are currently 17 newcomers on the fall roster 10 freshmen and seven JUCO transfers. Not on the roster is Isaiah Smith, a WSU commit who signed with the Royals after being taken in the 21st round. Smith was ranked as the 75th best high school prospect by Baseball America.

Following Saturday’s scrimmage with Central Washington, the Cougars will travel to Gonzaga on Oct. 14.