WSU Head Baseball Coach Donnie Marbut said last week he felt his team could sweep their season-opening series with the Nebraska Omaha Mavericks. Derek Jones and Taylor Ard made sure he was right.
On Monday afternoon, WSU wrapped up the third game of their series with a 7-1 win before holding on to beat the Mavericks 5-3 in the second game of the shortened doubleheader at Bailey-Brayton Field. The power-hitting duo combined to go 6-9 with a home run and four RBI’s combined.
The Cougars picked up in the top of the 6th inning after officials postponed Sunday’s game because of a fresh layer of snow. With temperatures still below freezing, WSU tacked on to their 5-1 lead in the bottom of the 6th inning.
Designated Hitter Collin Slaybaugh led off with a single back up the middle. Tommy Richards and Patrick Claussen followed with rare back-to-back bunt singles before Ian Sagdal grounded into a 4-6-3 double play that allowed Slaybaugh to score.
With a 6-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh, WSU capped off its scoring when Jones sent a 3-2 fastball screaming over the fence in center field for his second home run of the season. The solo shot moved the right fielder into sole possession of 6th place in career home runs at WSU.
“For a pitcher it’s kind of frustrating if you foul off a few tough pitches because then they have nothing else to go to,” Jones said. “He just missed up and in a little bit and I let my swing take over.”
Despite going 3-3 with three RBI’s in the first game, Jones said it’s taken some time to hit well while playing February baseball in Pullman.
“When I was a freshman I really hated it,” Jones said. “The wrists are such a big part of swinging your hands. And when they stiff up they freeze, but now that I’m a senior it's like ‘It’s 35 (degrees). I’m fine.’”
In fact, most WSU players have started to take pride in playing in rough conditions, according to Jones.
“You got to be mentally tough out here in Pullman,” he said. “We do a good job of being that blue-collar team that deals with all this weather.”
Kyle Swannack (1-0) picked up his first career win for WSU. The Bellevue College transfer, who started in Sunday’s blizzard, went five innings, giving up four hits while striking out six.
“My changeup and fastball were working really well,” Swannack said. “There was one inning where I was really struggling with my command, but I just went through my routine and did what I was supposed to do.”
In the second game of the doubleheader, freshman Joe Pistorese made his first start for WSU. The southpaw from Montana managed to keep the Mavericks off-balanced while both teams exchanged zeros through the first three-and-a-half innings.
In the bottom of the fourth, Adam Nelubowich broke the scoreless tie with a three-run home run to right field. An RBI groundout by Patrick Claussen gave the Cougars a 4-0 lead later in the inning.
Nebraska-Omaha cut the deficit to one in the top of the fifth inning following a two-run triple from Scotty Donner.
With the score at 4-3 entering the 7th, WSU’s Spencer Jackson allowed two Mavericks runners to reach second and third base with no outs before striking out the side. Ard then proceeded to cap off his 3 for 3 afternoon with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning.
Despite picking up nine hits in the series finale, Marbut said he isn’t worried about his offense’s early-season struggles.
“We’re not swinging the bat great yet but we’ve thought that offense was going to be a strength of ours so I’m not concerned at the moment,” he said.