This Week in Cougar Baseball

TANIELU CARRIES BIG BAT TOO

BIG CROWDS AND big scores are expected this weekend at Hi Corbett Field – made famous/infamous in the movie "Major League" – when the Washington State Cougars kick off the Pac-12 Conference baseball season at Arizona.

The Wildcats rank among the national leaders with a .315 team batting average and average home crowds of 2,346. The beer flows freely at Hi Corbett, where Charlie Sheen played pitcher Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn in the classic baseball comedy that filmed spring training scenes at Hi Corbett.

Games at Hi Corbett tend to be wild things. The Wildcats (10-9), who have yet to play a road game, have scored 10 or more runs seven times and yielded double-digit runs four times.

The Cougars (4-8) are batting just .241 and have yet to score 10 runs in a game, but their pitching has improved substantially since giving up 12 or more runs in three of the first five games. WSU and Arizona have limited home run pop, but the Wildcats already have a whopping 44 stolen bases – 37 more than the Cougars.

The Wildcats retain several players from their 2012 national championship club, but Arizona is unranked after being picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 in the preseason coaches poll. The Cougars were tabbed for eighth place.

Arizona center fielder Scott Kingery, the leadoff hitter, tops the Pac-12 with a .441 batting average. Second baseman Trent Gilbert, the reigning national player of the week, is hitting .385.

Third baseman Nick Tanielu continues to lead the Cougars in hitting (.375). Outfielder Yale Rosen is next at .342, but outfielder-pitcher Jason Monda (.294 last season) is hitting just .154, and catcher P.J. Jones is hitless in 30 at bats this season. He hit .276 last year.

Coach Donnie Marbut continues to express confidence in Monda, Jones and the team as a whole. Nine of WSU's games have been decided by one or two runs, including the past seven contests.

"We're 4-8, but I like these guys a lot," Marbut said.

Joe Pistorese has certainly bolstered Marbut's confidence. The junior left-hander opened the season in the bullpen, but all three of his starts have been impressive, including last Saturday in WSU's 4-3 win over Texas State.

"Joe was great again," Marbut said. "He just competed his tail off, as he always does."

Marbut also remains high on the talent and competitive nature of freshman closer Ian Hamilton (0-1, 1.08). Hamilton has three saves in six appearances.

Marbut said Pistorese (1-0, 2.05) will start Saturday after Monda (0-0, 2.93) goes Friday. Tanner Chleborad (0-2, 4.50) is the scheduled Sunday starter. Arizona throws senior right-hander James Farris (3-1, 2.38) in the opener.

Game times are 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon Sunday. All three games will be streamed live for free on www.wsucougars.com.

The Cougars will take advantage of spring vacation next week to play nonconference games at San Diego on Tuesday and Wednesday before visiting defending national champion UCLA next weekend.

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