The WSU baseball team (13-11, 3-5 Pac-12) will look to continue their offensive resurgence when they travel north Tuesday to play the Gonzaga Bulldogs (18-7, 3-1) at 6 p.m. in Spokane.
The Cougars have scored 44 runs in their past four games. Their increase in production comes as senior right fielder Derek Jones continues to put up the best numbers of his decorated WSU career.
Entering Tuesday’s contest, Jones is hitting .398 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs in 23 games. He leads the Cougars in every major offensive category and has a 1.270 OPS.
On Monday, Jones was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week. He is tied for the Pac-12 Conference lead in home runs and is just one shot away from tying WSU’s all-time record.
“He is just hot. He is on everything,” WSU Head Coach Donnie Marbut said. “He is scary. He is dangerous.”
On top of his power numbers, Jones has become the leader of a young team, according to Marbut.
“He is the captain of our club. He makes this team go,” Marbut said. “He knows what I want, and he relays that message and they listen.”
Adam Nelubowich has provided protection for Jones in the middle of the WSU order through eight Pac-12 games. The Canadian third basemen has hit safely in 17 of his past 18 contests and is hitting .287 on the season. A former 14th round pick by the Seattle Mariners, Nelubowich has helped the WSU offense to a .298 average.
The Cougars will likely need to continue to stay hot at the plate while their young pitching staff rounds into form. WSU features just one starter with an ERA under four and a staff ERA of 5.28. Kyle Swannack (2-2, 5.93 ERA) or Tanner Chleborad (1-0, 5.55 ERA) will start Tuesday against the Bulldogs.
As the Cougars have struggled to stay consistent at the plate and on the mound in 2012, Gonzaga has gotten off to a hot start. On offense, Royce Bolinger leads the Bulldogs with a .380 average and seven home runs. The Bulldogs are hitting .299 as a team.
Gonzaga enters Tuesday’s contest fresh off a series win over the Pepperdine Waves.
Their recent success can be attributed to a pitching staff that has dominated opponents through the team’s first 25 games. Gonzaga hurlers have a combined 2.69 ERA. They’ve held opponents to a .243 batting average against through the first half of their season.
Tuesday night’s game marks the first of three non-conference games between WSU and Gonzaga. The teams will square off in Spokane on April 17 before returning to Pullman in May for the series finale.