Will Coug bats heat up with the weather?

WASHINGTON STATE'S inconsistent play early in the baseball season likely can be traced at least partly to lousy weather for practices and games, but improved weather is in the forecast this weekend for the Cougars' final games prior to Pac-12 Conference play.

The Cougars (2-7) take on Texas State (9-2) in a three-game series at Bailey-Brayton Field. Game times are 6 p.m. Friday, noon Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Friday's contest will be streamed live on www.wsucougars.com, which provides the radio feed for all remaining home and away games.

One week after snow and frigid temperatures made WSU's first homestand a challenging one, the Cougars were rained out last Friday and Saturday at Cal State Northridge. The teams managed to play three games – all decided by one run – and the Cougars went 1-2 despite giving up just four runs to the light-hitting Matadors.

WSU coach Donnie Marbut said he was delighted with "three really good starts" by Jason Monda, Joe Pistorese and Tanner Chleborad. Those three are again set to pitch in that order this weekend against a Texas State team that has won seven straight games despite weak hitting.

Texas State was picked to finish fourth in the 10-team Sun Belt Conference in a preseason poll of league coaches. The Bobcats are in their first year in the Sun Belt.

"They're experienced," Marbut said. "Some good power (pitching) arms."

The Cougars have struggled at the plate, in the field and on the basepaths thus far. Monda, a .294 hitter last season, is batting just .174 (4-for-23). However, the senior left-hander has allowed only two runs – both unearned – in 9 2-3 innings and two starts.

Marbut said it's way too early to panic about Monda's hitting.

"He's got a really heavy load right now on the academic side as well as the pitching side," the coach said. Marbut noted that Monda, an aspiring physician, occasionally misses practice due to his classwork.

Washington State opens Pac-12 play next Friday with a three-game series at Arizona. The Cougars obviously wish they'd had more prep time, but weather is often an issue for college baseball teams early in the season, particularly in Pullman.

"It is what it is," Marbut said. "We're not going to cry about it.

"The equator's not going to change any time soon. I don't think that global warming thing is really working like everybody's talking about."

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