Feb. 7, 2006
PULLMAN, Wash. -
Washington State University opens its second season under head coach Donnie Marbut when it travels to Charleston, S.C. to compete in the Buccaneer Baseball Classic. The Cougars open its 2006 campaign Friday against East Tennessee State at 2:30 p.m., followed by Saturday games against Kennesaw State (10:30 a.m.) and host Charleston Southern (2:30 p.m.), before closing the tournament Sunday against Missouri (10:30 a.m.).
All four games this weekend will mark the first-ever meeting with Washington State. East Tennessee State enters the week with a 1-1 mark, having split a pair of games against Eastern Michigan before weather cancelled the rubber match. Kennesaw State will open its season facing the Cougars in Saturday's first game while the host Buccaneers bring an 0-3 record into the week, coming off a series sweep at the hands of No. 15 Florida State. WSU concludes the tournament against No. 10 Missouri, which opens the season Feb. 9, against East Tennessee State.
The Cougars are looking to improve on last season's 21-37 record, including their 20-14 mark against nonconference opponents. WSU will be on the road for its first 12 games before hosting Chicago State March 2, at Bailey-Brayton Field. That game marks the first of four in the Banana Belt tournament with the Cougars facing Gonzaga twice along with Lewis-Clark State.
WSU enters the 2006 baseball season continuing its youth movement as 21 first-year players join 14 players with just one season on the squad. Despite the relative youth of the Cougars, Marbut has high expectations as he heads into the campaign.
"I expect us to be very competitive, no matter who we are playing," said Marbut. "This team has the makeup and type of student-athletes who will be very competitive with the schedule we have. This team wants to bring itself back to respectability and put the program back on the map. Obviously it takes wins for that to happen, but I see this team being very competitive no matter where, when or who we are playing."
COUGARS IN SEASON OPENERS: Over the past 16 years starting with the 1990 season, the Cougar baseball team is 8-8 in season openers, including last year's 8-7, 10-inning victory at Sacramento State. WSU opens this season against East Tennessee State Feb. 10, at the Charleston Southern tournament, marking the second time in three years the Cougars have opened at a neutral site. In 2004, WSU posted a 9-1 victory over San Francisco in Phoenix, Ariz. Since 1990, the Cougars are 4-1 when opening at a neutral site.
MILLER CLIMBING CAREER HITS CHART: Following a 2005 season in which he led the Cougars with 74 hits, senior Jay Miller broke into the school's Top 10 career list with 219 hits. Miller won't need too long to move up the list as he trails No. 9 Tad Thompson (1989-92) by four hits and No. 8 Jeff Hooper (1984-87) by six. Miller is averaging 73 hits per season in his first three years, which if he does that again will place him second all-time. Miller needs 85 hits this year to tie all-time leader Mike Kinkade's (1992-95) mark of 304, the only Cougar to break 300 career hits.
COUGARS BOAST YOUTHFUL LOOK: For the second consecutive season, the Cougar lineup is filled with underclassmen. After featuring 12 freshmen and seven transfer students last season, head coach Donnie Marbut continues his youth movement, bringing in 12 more freshmen and nine first-year players in bolstering his squad. In all, 24 of the 40 rostered players are underclassmen and only five players in the program have more than one varsity letter.
HITTING THE BOOKS: Following the 2005 fall semester, the Washington State University baseball team posted a 2.86 combined grade point average, the highest semester GPA in Cougar baseball history.
TOURNAMENT MADNESS: After playing in just one tournament last season, the Cougars will compete in four during the 2006 schedule. WSU opens at the Charleston Southern tournament, then following a four-game set at Hawaii-Hilo, it competes in the River City Classic (Sacramento, Calif.) and Banana Belt Tournament in back-to-back weekends. During spring break, the Cougars will travel to Fresno, Calif., to play in the Johnny Quik Classic.
COUGARS IN TOURNAMENT PLAY: Starting with the 2000 season, the Cougars have fared well in tournament play, finishing no worse than tied for second in nine tournaments played. In that span, the Cougars have captured five tournament titles, tied for first in another and finished tied for second in the remaining three.
AIR MILES ADD UP: The Cougars will be no stranger to the road at the start of the 2006 season. WSU opens its campaign at the Buccaneer Classic, hosted by Charleston Southern, Feb. 10-12. The Cougars will face East Tennessee State, Kennesaw State, Charleston Southern and Missouri. The next weekend WSU heads west for a four-game, three-day series at Hawaii-Hilo, followed by the River City Classic, hosted by Sacramento State, with games against Portland, Brigham Young, UC Davis and San Francisco. The season-opening road swing will encompass 12 games, last 17 days and cover 11,234 miles.
2006 SCHEDULE FEATURES FOUR RANKED TEAMS: The 2006 schedule boasts four teams currently ranked among the nation's elite. In the most recent Baseball America poll, Oregon State (No. 6), leads the way, followed by Missouri (10), Arizona State (16) and Stanford (19).
TOUGH SCHEDULE: The Cougars will face seven teams that played in the post-season last year. Five conference foes, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State, Stanford and USC, all made a regional appearance, with the Wildcats and Beavers making it to the College World Series...Missouri also reached a regional while Lewis-Clark State made it to the NAIA World Series.
MARBUT TALKS ABOUT COUGS:
On coming back from winter break:
"I think for the most part we have come back from the break in shape and healthy. We played lot of young kids last year and they had some rough times but I think that can help as they understand what is coming up in their future. Hopefully over the break we had more of a dedication to getting ready for the season. December is a tough time to work at it but they realize February is just around the corner."
The most important thing to come out of this weekend, aside from four victories:
"I think we have to establish our identity a little bit. We have a lot of young guys out there that don't understand who they are yet. Every day, every game it's about competing. We just want to compete really hard. If we can become a very competitive team it is going to bode well for us in the future."
Talk about this time of year, getting ready for the opener:
"Right now we don't know what type of team we are, but now is the fun time. We haven't played anyone in a different uniform for six months so Friday reality hits and you play a game that counts. That should give us a good gauge of where we are at as a team."
PAC-10 TEAMS RANK AMONG BEST: Three of WSU's conference opponents are ranked in the top 25 in both the Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper polls...Oregon State is second in Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and sixth in Baseball America poll...Baseball America has Arizona State 16th and Stanford 19th, while Collegiate Baseball Newspaper has the Sun Devils 10th and the Cardinal 8th.
MILLER ON WALLACE WATCH LIST: Washington State University senior outfielder Jay Miller was one of 120 college baseball student-athletes named to the initial watch list for the 2006 Brooks Wallace Award presented by the College Baseball Foundation. Last season Miller batted .322 as he was an All-Pac-10 honorable mention selection. He finished his junior season with 215 career hits, 10th all-time at WSU. Miller was one of 11 Pac-10 players named to the initial list