Scott Simon’s best start of the season was also one of the better outings, statistically, for a Washington State pitcher in quite a while.
WSU’s Sunday starter was named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week on Monday after allowing just five hits in a complete-game shutout against the Utes on Sunday, allowing the Cougars to salvage a 5-0 win and leave Salt Lake City without getting swept.
“I felt good before the game. I felt really good and strong,” said Simon, a third-year sophomore. “I was fortunate enough to have all my good stuff – fastball’s velocity was there, off-speed was good and consistent, and that’s something that I’ve been a little bit inconsistent with this year.
“I was just fortunate enough to have my good stuff that day, (we) played good defense and everything worked out for me that day.”
Simon’s seven strikeouts in that game were a career-high, and he became the first WSU pitcher to throw a shutout since Wade Parrish did it against San Jose State in 1999. And Aaron Sele was the last Cougar to throw a nine-inning shutout in a conference road game when he did it at Washington in 1995.
“He pitched outstanding for us,” coach Donnie Marbut told reporters. “I haven’t seen him pitch that well in a long time.”
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 3.27 ERA in eight starts this season. A herniated disk in his back, along with bone spurs in his elbow, combined to slow Simon early in the season.
He still managed to take the mound for WSU during its season-opening series at Western Carolina, and has yet to miss a start. The back issue still bugs him from time to time, Simon said, “but once I get going, it goes away. Just an injury you’ve kind of got to deal with.”
If not for the early health problems, results like Sunday’s could have been more likely from the beginning of the season.
“I think I started off a little bit slow,” Simon said. “I’ve been getting stronger and more consistent throughout. I feel like early on I could have been better than I was, but it’s a work in progress, I guess.”
And, he hopes, a starting point for something better.
“I still don’t think you’ve seen the best of what Scott Simon has to offer,” Marbut said.
“Once you kind of set that bar, that’s what you expect every time you go out,” Simon said. “So next time, I have to strive to be better than that.”
The Cougars (17-13, 4-5 Pac-12) are striving to be better than they were last weekend when they lost two of three games to Utah, winning behind Simon’s effort on Sunday in a game Marbut termed afterward as a must-win.
WSU begins a three-game series against Arizona (21-11, 6-6) on Friday at Bailey- Brayton Field. The Wildcats, one year removed from a national championship, have won six consecutive games after losing their first six conference games.
WSU will likely be without third baseman Nick Tanielu, who sprained his knee last weekend and is doubtful to play against Arizona. Tanielu leads the team with a .402 batting average.
The Bulldogs had to wait an extra day to finish their three-game series against Portland – rain wiped out their scheduled Sunday game – but it was worth it. Gonzaga (20-10-1 overall) swept the Pilots for the third consecutive season and improved to 8-4 in West Coast Conference play. That’s good for first place at the moment, though Pepperdine, at 6-3, has the same .667 winning percentage. … Gonzaga opens a three-game series at home today against Saint Mary’s (11-22, 2-4).
The losing streak was snapped with a 15-12 win over Lewis & Clark last Saturday, but the Pirates dropped the final two games of that series to fall to 10-17-1 overall and 5-10 in Northwest Conference play.
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