Cougar baseball loses series to Cal
PULLMAN – The coach spoke many words in the dugout after this shellacking finally ended, though little of that speech was audible to anyone but the players who occupied the benches.
Donnie Marbut provided the abbreviated version moments later.
“We quit today, and that’s the cardinal sin,” said Marbut, not bothering to mask his disgust. “You just don’t do that.”
Few in attendance at Bailey-Brayton Field on Sunday will argue Marbut’s assessment. Not after Washington State sputtered its way to an 8-0 loss to California, managing just two hits off Bears starter Jason Jones while failing to move anybody past first base.
Most perplexing to Marbut was how, exactly, the Cougars failed to display proper effort in the rubber game of a crucial three-game series at home against a team it expected to beat.
“That’s my fault. My job is to make sure that the team is ready to play, and we weren’t ready to play,” Marbut said. “We didn’t play hard enough, we didn’t fight. We had everything going for us – being at home, graduation weekend, opportunity to win a series. There’s no excuse for it, and that’s on me.”
The Cougars (23-20, 9-11 Pac-12) slip two games under .500 in Pac-12 play with 10 games remaining. Six of those are on the road, including a trip this weekend to Stanford, whom Marbut called the most talented team in the conference.
That’s why it was so important for WSU to win its series against Cal. But the Cougars were doomed from the start on Sunday. Starter J.D. Leckenby struggled with his command, hitting Danny Oh to start the game, then allowing a single to Andrew Knapp before throwing a wild pitch that scored Cal’s first run. The Bears added another before the inning was over.
And if Cal (25-19, 9-12) had packed up its offense at that point, it would have been fine. Jones had little problem dispatching the Cougars, who were impatient and appeared disinterested at the plate.
They managed a leadoff walk in the first (before going down 1-2-3 thereafter), a leadoff hit batsman in the second (and then a double play, another hit batsman and a strikeout), a leadoff single in the fourth (and then another double play), and a leadoff single in the fifth (and then 15 straight outs to end the game).
Jones needed just 87 pitches to finish the shutout. Only three of WSU’s final 15 batters hit the ball out of the infield.
“He kept us off-balance pretty much the whole game,” said first baseman Taylor Ard, who had the first of WSU’s two hits. “I think there’s a lot of times we could have had more competitive at-bats, and could have made it more of a game rather than lopsided as it was.”
It became more lopsided in the seventh, when Cal scored four times thanks to two walks, four hits and a sacrifice fly off three different WSU pitchers, taking a 7-0 lead to seal the series win.
WSU plays against Portland in Pasco on Tuesday before traveling to Palo Alto, Calif. Figuring the Cougars’ NCAA tournament chances at this point is tricky, though it seems almost certain they need to win at least six of their remaining 10 conference games to have a chance.
Then, of course, there is the matter of a fourth, nonconference game against Cal, plus a game at home against Gonzaga (which has already beaten WSU twice).
“There are things that happen for teams in this league that do certain things,” Marbut said. “Teams that go to the postseason are teams that don’t quit in ballgames.”
WSU resembled neither on Sunday.