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Cougs’ postseason baseball hopes a lost cause

The Cougars have lost 10 of their last 16 conference games. (Courtesy photo)
The Cougars have lost 10 of their last 16 conference games. (Courtesy photo)

PULLMAN – Any remaining doubt was erased once the final out of Sunday’s game was recorded: The Washington State baseball team isn’t going to make the postseason.

That disappointing truth became a distinct possibility when WSU lost two of three games to California at home two weeks ago. And it became highly likely when Stanford swept the Cougars last weekend.

But after Oregon State beat WSU 7-5 on Sunday at Bailey-Brayton Field, there was no longer any question that the Cougars’ season will end in a week when they travel to Washington for a three-game series that won’t hold much intrigue.

“Even if you win the last four, you’re not going to be a postseason team,” coach Donnie Marbut said Sunday. “Our RPI’s not high enough and our wins, losses, those types of things. It’s disappointing, but it’s life and you’ve got to move on.”

After dropping two of three games to Oregon State (35-18, 15-12 Pac-12) during the weekend, the Cougars (26-26, 11-16 Pac-12) can no longer finish with a .500 conference record.

The promise of taking two out of three games from first-place Oregon on the road in late April dissipated into a frustrating final stretch. WSU has won just six of its 16 games since, losing series in that span to Arizona State, Cal, Stanford and now OSU.

The Beavers won Sunday’s game by taking a big lead early, as Michael Conforto’s three-run home run in the third inning off of WSU starter Kyle Swannack gave OSU a 4-0 lead that was never relinquished.

WSU chipped away, taking two runs back in the bottom of the fourth on a pair of sacrifice flies by Adam Nelubowich and Tommy Richards. And the Cougars forced OSU to scramble in the ninth when they pushed a run across to cut the lead to 7-5, then sent Taylor Ard to the plate with two outs and runners at first and second base.

But OSU reliever Dylan Davis coaxed a groundout from Ard to end the game.

Swannack took the loss after allowing five runs on eight hits in 41/3 innings. Dan Child earned the win for OSU, yielding five runs on 11 hits in eight innings.

Marbut said his team was plagued by a lack of experience this season, pointing to his starting pitching rotation – comprised of two freshmen (Tanner Chleborad and Joe Pistorese) and a sophomore (J.D. Leckenby) for much of the year – as one of the youngest in the nation.

The innings accumulated by those three pitchers this season could bode well for next year, Marbut said. But their youth showed down the stretch.

“There’s nobody in the country that’s going to Omaha or probably going to the postseason with a freshman-sophomore rotation in the BCS,” Marbut said. “You know, it’s the expectation in our program to do those types of things, but it’s not the end of the world. (But) it’s something that we really, really want for players in our program.”

And something they’ll have to wait at least another year for.