BASEBALL: Coug freshmen off to hot start

A WEEKEND WEATHER forecast of snow and freezing temperatures threatens to postpone or alter scheduling for Washington State's first three home baseball games of the season, but Cougars coach Donnie Marbut is feeling all warm inside after watching WSU's younger players in game action for the first time.

The Cougars opened the season by taking two of three games at Cal State-Bakersfield last weekend, and freshmen played prominent roles in the wins.

"I thought some of our young guys played with no fear for the most part," Donnie Marbut said during his weekly teleconference Tuesday. "I thought that was good."

Jason Monda went 3-for-3 in his college debut and started at designated hitter, in left field and in center field.

"He's swinging the bat really, really good," Marbut said.

Still, Marbut said the "MVP of the weekend" was freshman catcher Collin Slaybaugh, who filled in for injured senior Jay Ponciano.

"He did a really great job on the defensive end," Marbut said. "He already proved he can run and hit and do things on the offensive end, but we weren't sure, on an entire weekend, what he could do defensively. He did great."

Another freshman, sweet-fielding Trace Tam-Sing, collected two hits in his first start Sunday. Still another newcomer, junior college transfer Taylor Ard, blasted home runs Saturday and Sunday.

PLENTY OF MAJOR LEAGUE scouts were on hand to see WSU pitcher Adam Conley on Friday, and Conley did not disappoint them -- or Marbut.

The hard-throwing lefty scattered four hits over eight innings, struck out nine and walked no one in a 4-2 win.

"He's one of the best pitchers in the country," Marbut said. "I'm not sure why some people don't know about it. Maybe because he's in Pullman."

THE COUGARS ARE scheduled to play UC Santa Barbara at 3:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday at Bailey-Brayton Field.

The Gauchos opened the season with 7-3 and 13-1 wins over La Salle last weekend. Right-handed starters Matt Vedo and Greg Davis were effective, and shortstop Steven Moon collected five hits.

Marbut said Ponciano is questionable for the weekend after injuring his side in a practice collision on the basepaths.