PULLMAN – The 14th-ranked Arizona State baseball team had to survive a 5-hour snow delay and a Saturday afternoon holed up in a Pullman restaurant to escape with a 2-1 win at Bailey-Brayton Field and a series victory as well.
Washington State had to wait out the same delay – albeit with the comforts of home – only to absorb the loss. Yet the home team walked away from this game feeling almost as good as the victors.
Two weeks into Pacific-10 Conference play, the Cougars are 3-3, having won twice at Stanford last week and again in the first game of this three-game set with the Sun Devils (23-8, 2-1 Pac-10).
For a team trying to elude the shadow of a 1-23 Pac-10 season last year, playing yet another close game against a top-notch opponent doesn’t seem so bad.
“You hope you’re 6-0, but you take 3-3,” WSU coach Donnie Marbut said. “The expectations I have for this team are great, but I think the biggest key is the expectations these guys have for themselves are greater now.”
The Cougars (21-9, 3-3) had their chances to grab another series win as well, thanks to a strong outing from starting pitcher Wayne Daman and a few nifty plays in the field. But it was Arizona State that pitched just a bit better, and made the extra stab behind those hurlers, to make the difference.
“They hurt the worst to lose them, but they feel great to win them, too,” Daman said of the close loss. “It’s really nice to be in all the games like this. We’ve got a good club.”
Daman (5-2) struck out nine hitters in six innings, but gave up a double to the first hitter in the seventh – a baserunner who would score the game-winner – and was saddled with the loss as a result.
The Cougars grabbed a little late momentum when catcher Mike Gilbert, who hadn’t entered the game until the sixth inning, caught pinch runner Ryan Sontag leading off of third and picked him off for the second out in the top of the eighth. Junior reliever Travis Webb (Lewis and Clark High), once a Sun Devil, recorded a strikeout on the next pitch to end the inning and keep WSU within a run.
But they were unable to capitalize, stranding Paul Gran on third base in the bottom half of the inning when freshman Jared Prince struck out on a high fastball from Arizona State reliever Zechry Zinicola.
“I thought that might swing the game,” Daman said. “They had a great guy going on the hill. When he’s throwing upper 90s, it’s tough to get something going.”
The Cougars host Gonzaga for the fourth of seven games between the two teams on Tuesday night. WSU is 2-1 against the Bulldogs.
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