BASEBALL: Desperate for rally, Cougs get one

WASHINGTON STATE was struggling Tuesday night. Struggling mightily. Nothing was working. The Cougars were getting manhandled, plain and simple. Defeat seemed inevitable. No, we aren't talking about WSU's blowout basketball loss to Wichita State. The subject is WSU's blowout baseball win over Gonzaga.

The Cougars, mired in their longest losing streak (six games) in six years, rallied from early 6-1 and 10-5 deficits to down Gonzaga 17-11 at Bailey-Brayton Field.

Obviously, both teams were short on pitching in the mid-week, non-conference game. Still, the Cougars had to be encouraged after piling up a season-high 17 runs to even their record at 10-10 heading into this weekend's three-game homestand against 11th-ranked Stanford.

"Stanford's (pitching) arms coming in, they're going to be quality," WSU coach Donnie Marbut said. "They've got three legitimate starters. They've got bullpen arms. They've got set-up arms. You've got to be aggressive (on offense). Hopefully, we can take this momentum and this confidence and take it with us on a weekend series."

Momentum and confidence were in short supply last weekend after the Cougars were swept at 16th-ranked California. The Bears, like Stanford, are loaded with pitching.

The Cougars were shut out the first two games, then wasted a strong start by Chad Arnold on Sunday. WSU lost 4-3 in 11 innings after being one out away from a 3-1 victory in the ninth.

Junior right fielder Derek Jones, off to a slow start, went 4-for-4 with a home run Sunday and is now batting .270. Senior shortstop Cody Bartlett bumped his average to .349 with a 4-for-4 night Tuesday.

The Cougars need all the offense they can muster, since they lead the Pac-10 in errors with 31. Freshman center fielder Jason Monda has gone 0-for-17 the past four games after a torrid start. Mound ace Adam Conley (4-2, 2.38) has struggled the past two outings following his sensational start.

Perhaps a heaping helping of home cooking will cure what ails the Cougars. After playing seven straight road games, the Gonzaga contest kicked off a two-week, nine-game stretch with eight home dates.

Wet and/or cold weather has hampered the Cougars and many other West Coast teams, but the weekend forecast in Pullman is relatively promising.

WSU faculty gain free admission (courtesy of the Washington State Employees Credit Union) at Friday's 5:30 p.m. game. Other fans pay just $20 for four general admission tickets, four hot dogs and four sodas.

Kids 12 and under receive a free popcorn voucher at Saturday's 2 p.m. game. Children can run the bases after Sunday's noon contest, and all fans are welcome to seek post-game autographs.

The Stanford games will be webcast at www.wsucougars.com. All WSU games, home and away, are broadcast on radio in Pullman.

Fans are welcome to attend Marbut's weekly radio show Monday nights at 7 at the South Fork Public House in Pullman.

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