Jason Monda isn’t sure if he was taken seriously during the last two seasons when he dropped hints to Washington State’s baseball coaches.
And he wasn’t sure how serious the coaches were when they approached him last offseason with the same idea he’d been trying to put in their heads for two years.
Monda wanted to pitch. Eventually, coach Donnie Marbut wanted to see it happen, too.
“It’s gone well so far,” Monda said.
He’s right. The junior from Olympia has made eight appearances this season, striking out 16 batters while posting a 1-0 record with a 0.63 ERA in 14 1/3 innings.
That’s all in addition to his day job as WSU’s starting right-fielder – he plays first base, too – and leadoff batter. Monda has started all 27 of WSU’s games and is batting .297 with a team-leading 28 RBIs.
But it’s his performance on the mound that has elevated his value to the Cougars this season. He was already a third-team preseason All-America selection by Baseball America. Now he’s one of WSU’s most dominant relief pitchers, though he also threw four shutout innings in his first career start against Brown.
He wasn’t recruited with pitching in mind, Monda said, though he and teammate Kellen Camus anchored the starting rotation at Capital High School in Olympia and it was always something he enjoyed.
“We talked minimally about it,” Monda said. “They kind of mentioned that maybe to wait would be an option, but the first few years they wanted me to focus on hitting and figured we’d go from there.”
Two seasons passed with Monda as a position player and nothing else. But before WSU players departed for winter break in December, coaches put the idea in his head that they might like to see what he can do on the mound.
So he threw to his brother Michael, a catcher at WSU, during break, shaking off the rust and trying to repolish the pitches – he throws a fastball and a curve and is working on a changeup – that made him successful at Capital.
“That kind of helped me get into it on my own,” Monda said, “and once I got back I started throwing ’pens with the squad and they were going pretty well.”
Marbut told reporters last week he isn’t sure if Monda might turn into a starter for the Cougars, though he feels he’s capable. Middle relief could be an option, too.
“He’s been a very, very valuable guy out of the bullpen for us,” Marbut said. “He’s going to pitch important innings. … We don’t know exactly what we’re going to do with him, we just know he’s so very valuable, and we need to use him as much as we possibly can on the mound.”
WSU (16-11, 3-3 Pac-12) travels to Salt Lake City for a three-game series against Utah (12-13, 2-7) beginning tonight, then plays at Brigham Young on Monday.
A six-game winning streak over Portland is on the line when the Bulldogs visit the Pilots for a three-game series this weekend. Gonzaga improved to 17-10-1 after beating WSU in Pullman on Tuesday. Portland’s record is just 12-17, though the Pilots are ahead of Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference standings at 4-2. The Bulldogs are 5-4, and have swept Portland in each of the past two seasons.
The final two weeks of March were not kind to the Pirates (9-15-1, 4-8 Northwest Conference), as the defending NWC co-champions ride a seven-game losing streak into this weekend’s three-game homestand against Lewis & Clark. The good news: Lewis & Clark is the conference’s last-place team with a 6-21 overall record and a 3-9 mark in NWC play. … Those involved in the renovation of Merkel Field will be honored prior to Saturday’s noon game.