PULLMAN – For the past five games the Washington State baseball team has been without coach Donnie Marbut, who was suspended by the Pac-12 after the coach was ejected from WSU’s game at Oregon following a verbal argument with an umpire.
Any ejection triggers an automatic suspension of two games and the conference tacked on four more games for inadvertently spitting on the official during the disagreement.
The suspension meant Marbut missed WSU’s comeback victory over No. 5 Washington in Seattle on Friday, as well as the Cougars’ back-to-back losses in Sunday’s doubleheader.
“Sunday was probably the most gut-wrenching (day) of my life. I’d never felt so out of sorts, felt so bad,” Marbut said. “Tight, nervous, all these weird feelings that you just don’t have during a game because you’re out there doing your thing.”
In the interim, associate head coach Gregg Swenson has taken command of the Cougars. The transition has been helped by the coaches’ familiarity with each other; after nine years together Marbut and Swenson are the longest-tenured head coach and assistant in the Pac-12.
“I know what he expects from the team, I know what he wants from the team, I know his language, I know all that,” Swenson said. “That makes it a lot easier than if a guy had only been here a year or something like that because I have a very good feel for what Donnie wants for this program.”
Despite just one win in Marbut’s absence, the Cougars have been competitive in three of the four losses, losing the series finale at Oregon, 2-1, and falling to UW on Sunday by scores of 2-1 and 2-0.
Tuesday’s 7-2 home loss to Gonzaga, a team the Cougars had beaten 5-1 in Spokane, however, was ugly.
“The guys played hard, the effort has been good, the intent has been good,” Swenson said. “I have not had any real challenges of trying to wake them up or anything like that. I appreciate the fact that they have given the good effort to us.”
Swenson added that, in the eyes of the coaches, the presence of a skipper should have little impact on the players if they have been coached properly. That they are being taught from the moment they step on campus until as upperclassmen they have the knowledge and tools to succeed.
He added, “We try to teach them that so that they have a really holistic understanding of what this game is when Donnie’s gone, or if I’m gone because I get tossed or something like that, these players know how to play and keep moving on.”
Bulldogs on hot streak
Brandon Bailey pitched his third complete game of the season to secure a series win over Saint Mary’s College as Gonzaga swept Saturday’s doubleheader.
Although the Bulldogs were unable to complete the series sweep on Sunday the two victories pulled them into a tie with Loyola Marymount for second place in the West Coast Conference.
Bailey, just a freshman, struck out a career-high seven batters in the 4-1 win and allowed just eight hits. After staying off the mound his senior year of high school because of Tommy John surgery, Bailey’s longevity has been impressive and he has three of GU’s four complete games this season.
The Bulldogs have now won six of their last seven games, and have won five series against WCC opponents.