THE FUTURE'S SO BRIGHT HE'S GOTTA WEAR SHADES
MOST COACHES TAKE a moment to bask in the glow of an outstanding season once that season has come to an end. If Washington State baseball coach Donnie Marbut savored such a moment, it’s long gone. The Cougars’ charter flight home from the Fayetteville Regional had barely landed Tuesday when Marbut was already talking about next year -- and Marbut is talking loud and proud.
“We want to get to Omaha. No ifs, ands or buts about it,” Marbut said. And, on paper at least, he has the horses to make it happen.
Omaha, of course, is the home of the College World Series. Marbut figures it would only be fitting if the Cougars played in the CWS in the first year at the tournament’s glitzy new $24 million downtown stadium next year, since WSU played at Rosenblatt Stadium (the current home of the CWS) the first year the tournament came to Omaha in 1950.
“We can do it,” Marbut said. “It’s not a pipe dream anymore. It’s something that can happen with a lot of hard work.
“I just think we have the right players. I don’t think they’ve peaked. I think now they kind of understand; they have a better grasp on what it takes to get there.
“We’ve got great administrative support and great fan support.”
Marbut saw evidence of that when a few dozen administrators and fans greeted the Cougars as they returned to the Bohler Athletic Complex on Tuesday. Marbut is counting on continued support from administrators and fans to help entice the NCAA to stage a regional at WSU’s Bailey-Brayton Field next next year.
“We don’t want to go on the road and play these games,” Marbut said. “We want to host in Pullman. That’s the goal.”
The Cougars lose just five seniors -- only two of whom started -- off a 37-22 team that finished third in the Pac-10 and second at regionals. Marbut said he also expects to lose juniors Chad Arnold and Shea Vucinich, who were selected Tuesday on the second day of the major league draft.
Arnold, WSU’s No. 1 starting pitcher this season, was drafted in the 18th round (562nd overall) by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Vucinich, a three-year starter at shortstop, was taken by Boston in the 20th round (609th overall).
One of WSU’s signed recruits, Trace Tam Sing out of Bellevue’s Newport High School, was drafted in the 22nd round (683rd overall) by Boston. Marbut said he expects at least two other Cougar signees to be picked on the final day of the draft today: Pitcher Scott Simon from Central Valley High in Spokane Valley, and Jason Monda from Capital High in Olympia.
“I expect them all to come (to WSU) this year,” Marbut said.
Marbut said he “absolutely” expects Tam Sing to make a solid bid to start at shortstop. “He’ll be special,” Marbut predicts.
Marbut said Monda, the son of former Washington State slugger Greg Monda, “is going to be a big leaguer.”
Asked what he likes about Monda, Marbut was quick to answer, “There’s nothing I don’t like about him. He’s 6-foot-3, 6-4, left-handed hitter, left-handed thrower, he can run, he can hit. He looks like a skinny major leaguer right now.
“He’s a 4.0 student. His mom and dad are both Cougs. His dad is a former Cougar baseball player. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Other high school recruits who have signed letters of intent with the Cougars include Camas pitcher Taylor Williams, Puyallup catcher Sal Arena, Mount Spokane outfielder Nate Blackham, Auburn pitcher Brandon Williams, Kent corner man Stetson Olson, Spokane outfielder Mitchell Peterson and outfielder/pitcher Brandon Snyder of Tualatin, Ore.
Monda might be able to replace one or both of WSU’s departing senior starters: designated hitter Matt Fanelli and first baseman Michael Weber. Marbut said he’s hopeful those two players and senior relief pitcher Seth Harvey are drafted Wednesday.
The other Cougar seniors were relief pitchers Connor Lambert and Michael Ratigan.
Marbut said sophomore Adam Conley, who excelled as a starter and reliever this year, will replace Arnold as the No. 1 starter next season. Conley becomes draft eligible next year, and Marbut expects that to be Conley’s final season in a Cougar uniform.
“I think we have a first-round pick,” Marbut said. “I think we have one of the best pitchers in the country.”
Marbut is similarly high on the college and pro future of sophomore right fielder Derek Jones, who also becomes eligible for the draft next year.
“You’ve got to think of him kind of like we do with Conley,” Marbut said. “Those are going to be two of the premier players in the Pac-10, and two of the premier players in the country.”
Junior second baseman Cody Bartlett, coming off a strong performance at regionals, is another key veteran in WSU’s plans for 2011.
“I expect him to be the heart and soul of our club like he turned into this year,” Marbut said.
The diminutive Bartlett is a fiery, inspiring player. Marbut, never one to mince words, makes it clear what he hopes to get out of Bartlett next year.
“He’s the type of leader,” Marbut said, “that can take this team to Omaha.”