Baseball: Dark cloud following Cougs?

COUGS ARE A SURPRISING 1-5 TO START SEASON

A BLACK CLOUD seems to be following the Washington State baseball team. Literally and figuratively. The Cougars are 1-5 after a snow-shortened homestand, and rain is in the forecast during WSU's upcoming trip to Cal State Northridge.

The Matadors (4-4) and Cougars were originally scheduled to play one game a day Thursday through Sunday. Now, to try to dodge the rain, the teams have scheduled a 10:30 a.m. doubleheader Thursday, followed by a 2 p.m. game Friday and 1 p.m. contests Saturday and Sunday.

All remaining WSU games are set to be broadcast live on Pullman radio stations KQQQ 1150 AM and KHTR 104.3 FM and free on the internet at www.wsucougars.com.

Junior left-hander Joe Pistorese, who has been pitching out of the bullpen after starting for WSU last season, is scheduled to make his first start of the season in Thursday's opener.

It's far too early to panic, but the Cougars have yielded about twice as many runs (57-27) and walks (30-16) as their opponents. WSU is batting .246 and has a 7.43 earned run average. The opposition has hit .354 and owns a 2.41 ERA.

"We need to be better in all aspects of the game," Donnie Marbut said. "We haven't had the starting pitching that we thought we would have and we are going to get, and we'll get it this weekend."

The Matadors, picked to finish eighth in the nine-team Big West Conference, have scored just 14 runs except for a 14-run outburst against Seattle. Northridge has matched WSU's .246 batting average, but the Matadors' ERA is 2.88.

"They pitch the ball well, and they don't make any errors," Marbut said. "Those are two real good places to start."

WSU has been outscored 37-8 in first games against their three opponents, losing 12-0 to Cal State Fullerton, 12-7 to UC Riverside and 13-1 to Western Carolina.

"There's nothing that we can't do better," Marbut said, "and there's nothing that we won't do better. Hopefully, that starts Thursday."

The Cougars have lost four in a row since knocking off then-No. 1 Cal State Fullerton. WSU wants to turn things around in a hurry, because only the Northridge series and a March 7-9 homestand with Texas State separates the Cougars from their Pac-12 Conference opener March 14 at Arizona.

The Wildcats, a perennial national power, received votes in the latest National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Top 25. The Cougars received votes in that poll last week, but not this week.

Third baseman Nick Tanielu continues to lead the Cougars in batting (.435). He's also first in slugging percentage (.565) and on-base percentage (.480).

"He's a good player, and he likes to play the game, too," Marbut said. "He's really swinging the bat well."

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