Considering the circumstances, Washington State did a remarkable job of tending to business Saturday afternoon.
Even after hearing that Gonzaga had knocked off Washington earlier in the day to give WSU an outright championship in the Pac-10 North Division baseball race, the Cougars had enough to rally from a sevenrun deficit and beat Oregon State 8-7 in the first game of a Pacific-10 Conference doubleheader.
OSU came back to win the second game 14-6 behind the bat of Chris Wakeland, who pounded a pair of homers and drove in five runs. But the Beavers’ win did little to dampen the enthusiasm of first-year Cougars coach Steve Farrington.
“We got three out of four,” Farrington said after Saturday’s split. “It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done. This was a big win for us today because of the circumstances.
“I was really pleased with the way we battled back and got it done.”
The first-game win came courtesy of a bases-loaded hit batsman in the bottom of the seventh inning for Washington State (18-12 in the Pac-10, 28-28 overall).
The Cougars clinched a trip to next week’s three-game playoff at the home of the South Division champion with a sweep of the Beavers on Friday afternoon. The South Division champion will be determined today.
Washington State needed either one win or a UW loss Saturday to avoid having to share its first championship since 1991 with the Huskies.
Gonzaga made Saturday’s win a non-issue by beating the Huskies 10-4 in the second game of their doubleheader at Pecarovich Field.
And the Cougars then treated a vocal Bailey Field crown to one of their biggest comebacks of the year.
After falling behind 7-0 in the first four innings, the Cougars pushed across three runs in the fifth and four more in the sixth to tie the game.
“The whole thing goes back to not playing very well but then rallying around your bats,” Farrington said. “In baseball some funny things happen.”
They won it in the seventh when Ken Cameron, batting with the bases loaded and two outs, was hit by a Matt Bailie pitch that forced Randy Kaleikilo home with the winning run.
The bizarre last inning, which featured three walks and a decisive off-target pitch to Cameron, made a winner out of WSU reliever Eric Estes.
Estes, a 6-foot-4 senior, bailed out battered starter Mark Hendrickson in the second inning and limited the Beavers (14-16, 25-24) to one hit and an unearned run the rest of the way. He struck out 10 and walked only one in picking up his first win in five decisions.
“We’ve been waiting for that kind of performance,” Farrington said. “We needed him to do it because we’re going to need him down south. He gives you that experience as well as a real good arm.”
Hendrickson was roughed up for eight hits and six runs in 1 innings.
Jim Horner fueled WSU’s late rally with a two-run home run in the fifth. The Cougars pushed across another run in that inning on Mike Kinkade’s single to center and then added four more in the sixth on Rob Ryan’s two-run double and Ron Naumu’s two-run single.
Three of WSU’s sixth-inning runs were unearned due to OSU third baseman Allen Snelling’s boot of Horner’s one-out grounder.
The Beavers scored six runs in the second, with the big blow coming in the form of a three-run homer by Pat Meiwes.
Farrington played 19 players in the second game. Freshman Kyle Poffenroth (3-6) took the loss for the Cougars, who managed only five hits off Beaver starter Kevin Hooker (7-2).
Washington 8-4, Gonzaga 4-10
The Bulldogs managed a split with the Huskies at Pecarovich field behind Andy Norton’s three RBIs in the second game.
The doubleheader ended the season for both Gonzaga (15-16, 29-25) and UW (16-14, 24-30).
In the first game, The Huskies jumped on Bulldogs starting pitcher Jerrod Wong for six runs in the first two innings.
In the second game, Carter Masterson and Scott Morgan each had a pair of RBIs for GU.
Morgan’s two-run double to the left field corner highlighted a fiverun fourth off UW starter Sean Spencer (5-5). Norton greeted reliever Brent Brakke with a tworun single to center to cap the scoring.
Masterson, a senior, hit a towering home run to left field in the eighth inning in his final at-bat at Gonzaga. It was his eighth home run of the season.
Troy Cleland pitched into the eighth inning of the nightcap for Gonzaga to run his record to 7-4. He allowed just two hits through the first four innings, then lost his shutout bid when the Huskies scored a single run in the fifth and another in the sixth.
While UW committed four errors in each game, GU managed just one unearned run in the opener. The miscues led to four unearned runs in the nightcap.
Washington 240 110 0 - 8 14 4
Gonzaga 020 100 1 - 4 8 0
Kringen, Campbell (6) and Mahle; J.Wong, C.Wong (3) and Norton. W-Kringen (4-4). L-J.Wong (4-8).
HITS: Washington-Trippy, Junkin 3, Mahle 2, Vander Griend, Bishop, Holmes, Spencer, Loucks 3, Soules. Gonzaga-Masterson, J.Wong, Morgan, Hare 2, Jacobs, Olson, Branch. 2B-Junkin, Mahle 2, Vander Griend. HR- Spencer (8). T-2:04.
Washington 000 011 011 - 4 9 4
Gonzaga 011 502 01x - 10 12 2
Spencer, Brakke (4), Irvine (7), Merrick (8) and Shewey; Cleland, Caldwell (8) and Norton. W-Cleland (7-4). L-Spencer (5-5).
HITS: Washington-Trippy 2, Shewey, Vander Griend 2, Kriston 2, Powell 2. Gonzaga-Hunt, Masterson 3, Morgan, Norton 2, Jacobs, Hare, Olson, Doolittle, Shine. 2B-Vander Griend, Kriston, Masterson 2, Morgan. 3B-Shewey. HR- Vander Griend (11), Masterson (8). T-2:15. A-250.