Conventional wisdom holds that college baseball teams from colder climates are often behind their southern competition early in the season. Winter weather makes practicing outdoors difficult and those teams often don’t hit their strides until later in the spring.
Washington State’s performance at No. 1 Cal State Fullerton, in which WSU came within one run of beating the country’s best in a three-game series, indicated the Cougars are ready to hit the ground running.
Their 12-7 loss at UC Riverside on Monday showed that there are still some kinks to be worked out.
“I told them on Sunday and I’ll say it today: We’re going to be a good team,” coach Donnie Marbut said. “We might even be a great team before it’s all said and done. We’re not a great team today, I don’t even know if we’re a good team today but we’re going to be.”
One bright spot for the Cougars was the bat of third baseman Nick Tanielu. The sophomore missed 23 games last season after suffering a knee injury in his left leg. He was leading the Pac-12 in batting average at the time of his injury.
Tanielu appeared to have regained his form through WSU’s first four games, collecting seven hits in 17 at-bats with a pair of doubles.
“(He) loves to play, loves to play baseball and you want to coach guys like that,” Marbut said. “Teammates really feed off him other than just being a good player. There are some guys that put up numbers that are good players but they don’t make people around (them) better. He’s kind of got that infectious personality on a baseball field where he’s able to make guys better.”
But while the team’s bats were hot – putting up 18 runs over three games after being shutout in the season-opener – it was a different story on the mound. WSU’s starting pitchers allowed eight earned runs over 12 innings pitched and only Tanner Chleborad lasted longer than three innings.
“The starting rotation was the disappointment of the weekend, no question,” Marbut said. “We got three poor starts – well, I shouldn’t say three poor starts – we got two poor starts in particular. (Scott) Simon’s on Friday night and Kellen (Camus) on game three, they’ll both pitch better, I don’t question that at all.”
Marbut said that he would tweak the rotation in upcoming games and has not decided whether Camus will start on Monday against Western Carolina.
“He’s just been such a great guy out of the (bullpen) that we want to also have his versatility (in relief).”