WASHINGTON STATE is battling to stay above .500 on the baseball diamond with a young and inexperienced pitching staff, but the Cougars rank with the nation's best on defense.
In the latest NCAA Division I statistics (through Sunday), the Cougars stand second in double plays per game (1.31) and sixth in fielding percentage (.979).
Senior right fielder Derek Jones
ranks eighth in slugging percentage (.752) and 18th in home runs per game (.29). Jones leads the Pac-12 Conference in slugging percentage and is tied for first with nine home runs.
The Cougars hope to outdraw Gonzaga fans at tonight's nonconference game at GU's Patterson Field in Spokane. WSU's athletic department has actively promoted the game (6 p.m., SWX) as part of Spokane Week leading up to Saturday's Crimson and Gray football scrimmage at Albi Stadium.
WSU (18-14, 5-6 Pac-12) resumes conference play with a weekend series that starts Friday at eighth-ranked Oregon (24-10, 10-5). The Ducks, one of five Pac-12 teams ranked in the Top 25 of Baseball America magazine, are tied for first with No. 11 UCLA and No. 13 Arizona midway through the conference schedule.
The sixth-place Cougars are 3-4 against Top 25 teams this season, with wins over Arizona, Cal State Fullerton and UCLA).
NOTABLE FOOTBALL NOTES:
The Cougs will hold their annual Crimson & Gray Game in Spokane this Saturday at Albi Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m., but the parking lot will open for tailgating at 8 a.m., and two beer gardens will commence operations at 10 a.m. Cougar players and coaches will be on hand for autographs starting at 11 a.m., with free posters being handed out. WSU expects a crowd of 10,000-plus for the game.
The game will be televised live in the Greater Spokane region on SWX, and KXLY Radio will be broadcasting from the stadium for the first hour.
The game will not be the capstone to Mike Leach's first spring season at WSU. He wants to take what he and his staff learn from the game and employ it in practice while it's fresh in players' minds, so the Cougs will hold one more practice next week.