There was free coffee Tuesday night at Bailey Field, presumably to help keep spectators from freezing and not nodding off.
Washington State baseball fans have often needed artificial stimulants during this season of rebuilding, but not so this night, when the feisty Cougars pushed Lewis-Clark State to the brink before enduring a 5-4 non-conference loss.
The Cougars threatened with one run in the ninth inning before stranding two runners en route to their eighth straight loss and 22nd in 24 games this season.
The Warriors (20-5-1) had scored 17, 14, and 18 runs in three recent victories over the Cougars, but were less successful against WSU relievers Wade Parrish and Dave Wheeler.
“That was the positive note - we pitched better tonight,” WSU coach Steve Farrington said. “They’re a pretty good hitting team.”
Farrington used four pitchers Tuesday night and plans to use five in today’s 2 p.m. game at Gonzaga, the idea being to tune his pitching staff for this weekend’s Pacific-10 North opener at Oregon State.
Starter Todd Belitz (0-4) yielded three earned runs in 2-1/3 innings as LCSC jumped to a 3-1 lead. The Warriors, led by Keith Habig’s 4-for5 outing, would make it 5-1 before WSU started its comeback.
“They played well tonight,”Warriors coach Ed Cheff said. “They pitched pretty good - Wheeler can make you look bad.”
After Casey Kelley’s fourth-inning groundout scored Steve Curran and pulled the Cougars within 5-2, Curran led off the sixth by homering off LCSC starter Tim Conklin (2-2).
Conklin left after six, setting up a pitching duel between bullpens.
After 2-1/2 scoreless innings, WSU struck with its one-run rally in the ninth. Greg Mitchell’s sacrifice grounder scored Duane Stewart to make it 5-4, but Shawn Stevenson followed with the game-ending groundout.
With one out in the inning, the Cougars had the winning run at first base when Jason Hairston came to bat. But the WSU catcher fouled off two bunt attempts and had to be restrained by Farrington after being called out on strikes.
It was a frustrating night for Hairston, who twice struck out on just three pitches.
The Cougars played without leading hitter Steve Gleason, who is out with a strained back. Gleason, who also plays football for the Cougars, suffered the injury during spring football practices.
LCSC 5, WSU 4
LC-State 003 200 000 - 5 9 2
WSU 100 101 001 - 4 6 1
Conklin, Ginoza (7), Lee (8) and Larson; Belitz, Poffenroth (3), Parrish (4), Wheeler (8) and Hairston. W-Conklin (2-2). L-Belitz (0-4) Sv-Lee (5).
HITS: Lewis & Clark State College - Rijo-Berger, Strankman, Habig 4, Silva, Davis 2. Washington State - Stevenson, Curran 2, Hoorelbeke, Kelley, Stewart. 2B-Davis Habig 2. HR-Curran (3).
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