The remaining schedule is top-heavy with home games against teams in the bottom half of the Pac-10 standings. First, however, the last-place Cougars visit first-place Oregon State (27-7, 8-1). The Cougars have lost three straight games; the Beavers have won nine in a row.
"Hottest team in the country, no question about that," Washington State coach Donnie Marbut said.
A handful of WSU's trademark, come-from-behind wins have provided recent hope for a late turnaround. That hope has been dimmed by the fact that WSU has struggled in one or more of all three major facets of play -- hitting, pitching and defense -- much of the season.
Few Cougars have improved from a year ago, at least statistically. A notable exception is senior third baseman Matt Argyropoulos, who is batting a team-high .330 with four home runs after hitting .272 with three homers last season. Also, middle reliever Richie Ochoa sports a 3-1 record and 3.22 earned run average after going 2-2 with a 6.21 ERA last year as a redshirt freshman in 2010.
Junior pitcher Adam Conley (4-4, 3.05) has often been dominant, and his combination of 60 strikeouts and 10 walks in 65 innings ranks among the nation's best. Redshirt sophomore first baseman Taylor Ard (.315 with a team-high 29 RBIs), a junior college transfer, has been a solid addition.
Junior right fielder Derek Jones (.276, five home runs) leads the team in long balls for the third straight year. Freshman center fielder-left fielder Jason Monda (.301, 15 RBIs) has demonstrated great promise at the plate and in the field.
Three players who have excelled in the past -- pitcher Chad Arnold (0-3, 7.65 in five games), shortstop-second baseman Cody Bartlett (.314, 10 runs) and catcher Jay Ponciano (.233, four RBIs) -- have not enjoyed big senior seasons. All three players have dealt with injuries at times since the end of last season.
Fellow senior Paris Shewey is 1-0 with six saves (tied for the league lead), but his 4.58 ERA is obviously not what one wants from a closer. Left fielder-designated hitter Brett Jacobs, who led Washington State with a .340 batting average as a freshman last year, has slipped to .262.
The Oregon State series marks the end of a stretch of 21 contests in which 20 of the games involved a Top 25 opponent.
"Nobody cares … (but) it has been a definite grind," Marbut said.
The coach said WSU's preseason goals, including a third straight trip to the 64-team NCAA tournament, are still within reach.
"The only way they're attainable is to play some good baseball," Marbut said. "We have 23 games left."