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GU helps WSU open home schedule today

Washington State will get another early jump on the home portion of its 2009 schedule this afternoon when it entertains Gonzaga in a 5:30 p.m. non-conference game at Bailey-Brayton Field.

The weather will be raw and the competition challenging, but Cougars coach Donnie Marbut is happy to be back in Pullman to kick off a six-game homestand after opening the season with three straight road losses to 22nd-ranked Arkansas.

The Cougars (0-3) lost those three games by a combined total of five runs – a fact that offered little in the way of solace for Marbut and his players.

“As far as the wins and losses columns go, we’re not happy,” Marbut said. “We lost three tight games, but two-thirds of our play was pretty good. Our defense was good and our pitching was good. We just came up short offensively and didn’t score enough runs to come out ahead.

“It’s frustrating not to get a win or two, but we’re past that now and looking ahead to a real tough game against Gonzaga, and then a big (four-game) series against Oklahoma (Feb. 27-March 1). So it doesn’t get any easier, that’s for sure.”

Gonzaga (3-1) is coming off an impressive 13-9 win over 10th-ranked Missouri in Sunday’s final game of the Grand Canyon Classic in Phoenix. The Bulldogs pounded out 20 hits against the Tigers, getting four each from senior first baseman Ryan Wiegand and junior outfielder Mark Castelitto.

“It was a good tournament for us,” said sixth-year head coach Mark Machtolf, whose Bulldogs are hitting a robust .331 as a team.

“Offensively, we swung the bats really well, and we got great starting pitching all weekend.”

Machtolf admitted heading into tonight’s game not knowing much about the Cougars.

“They’ve only played three games and we’ve only played four, so that’s not very telling,” he explained. “But they’re always good and well coached, so it should be fun.”

Marbut admitted, as well, that he is concerned about dealing with the Zags after checking some of their early season scores.

“They’re always a good offensive team, and I know that’s something they pride themselves in is swinging the bats,” he said. “But you can’t look past that pitching.

“When you look at what they did last weekend, it looks like they got some really quality starts – and that’s a scary combination when Gonzaga is pitching well and swinging the bat the way they can.”

When asked about his own pitching staff, Marbut expressed satisfaction in his bullpen and some minor concerns over his starting rotation.

“We like our bullpen a lot, and that first weekend everybody pitched fine out of there,” he explained. “Our starting pitching was OK, too, but they need to get deeper into the game for us, which should make our bullpen even stronger.”

Bucs to start league play

Whitworth University (2-3), coming off a championship run in the Peoria College Baseball Tournament in Peoria, Ariz., will open Northwest Conference play this weekend when it travels to Tacoma to take on Puget Sound in a pair of Saturday-Sunday doubleheaders that both start at noon.

The Pirates, under first-year head coach Dan Ramsay, are trying to bounce back from a disappointing 2008 season in which they finished 13-27 overall and 12-20 in NWC play. Ramsay takes over for Keith Ward, who spent the previous 11 seasons as the Bucs’ head coach.

The Pirates will open their home season on March 8, when they play host to NWC rival Linfield in another noon doubleheader that will be followed by another noon doubleheader the next day.

Sasquatch open this weekend

Community Colleges of Spokane will open its 2009 season this weekend in The Dalles, Ore., taking on Clakamas CC in a doubleheader that starts at noon on Saturday and then facing Linn-Benton CC in another twinbill that starts at noon on Sunday.

First-year coach Bobby Lee will be working with a young and inexperienced Sasquatch team that has only nine sophomores on its 31-player roster.

CCS finished 18-22 last spring under Dave Keller, who retired at the end of the season after serving 12 years as the Sasquatch head coach.