Sept. 14, 2006
PULLMAN, Wash. - The Washington State University baseball team opened its fall practice schedule Wednesday in preparation for the 2007 season. The Cougars will practice for five weeks before culminating the fall season with the annual Crimson and Gray World Series, Oct. 16-20.
The Cougars return seven starters and 24 letterwinners from a 2006 team that posted a 36-21 record. That marked a 15-win improvement over the 2005 season, tying the greatest single-season improvement at WSU (1955-56). The 36 wins also were the most by a Cougar squad since the 1991 season, when WSU went 37-25.
"We are excited to get going again," said WSU Head Coach Donnie Marbut. "It's a great time of year as the kids are eager to get back on the field and continue to build on our accomplishments from last season."
Leading the returnees are senior third baseman Jeff Miller, junior first baseman Jim Murphy and sophomores Jared Prince (pitcher/outfield) and Travis Coulter (second base). Prince returns from an outstanding freshman campaign when he was named to Baseball America's and Collegiate Baseball newspaper's freshman All-America teams, and was a third-team All-America selection by the American Baseball Coaches Association. Coulter was also a freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball newspaper.
Murphy begins his junior season coming off a big summer as he was named the New England Collegiate Baseball League MVP. Murphy led the league in several offensive categories, including hitting (.358), slugging percentage (.635), on-base percentage (.458), RBIs (40), total bases (94) and hit by pitch (.12). He was also second in home runs (9) and third in doubles (14).
Murphy's teammate this past summer was Miller, who hit .302 with six doubles, three home runs and 21 RBIs, including a home run in Newport's 7-1 victory over Manchester in the Divisional Championship Series.
Other Cougars to have strong summer showings include junior pitcher Ross Humes, who was named the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League Pitcher of the Year. Prince, who spent the first part of the summer with USA Baseball, was an All-WCCBL honorable mention selection while junior transfer Zach Borba, who spent last season at UNLV, was also an All-WCCBL honorable mention pick. Sophomore Tyler McCallum was a WCCBL All-Star Game participant after a strong first half for the Wenatchee Apple Sox.
Coulter spent his summer as part of the Mat-Su Miners in the Alaska Baseball League, where he was named to the All-ABL first team.
In addition to beginning the fall season, Marbut announced his 2007 schedule, which features eight home series and a road trip to the 2005 NCAA Champion Texas Longhorns.
"Our 2007 schedule will certainly test us as a team," said Marbut. "Not only has the strength of our nonconference schedule increased, with 2005 NCAA champion Texas, but the Pac-10 continues to get stronger."
The schedule begins with back-to-back road trips at Cal State Northridge and Texas in mid-February. The Longhorns finished last season ranked No. 12 in the Baseball America poll, advancing to the NCAA Regional before being upset by Stanford. WSU also has nonconference road series at San Jose State and conclude the 2007 schedule with a series at UC Davis.
The Cougars open their home schedule March 1 by hosting Utah Valley State in the first of four games during the Banana Belt Tournament. WSU is also scheduled to face Southern Utah, Lewis-Clark State and Air Force during the tournament. Other nonconference home opponents include Rider, Illinois Chicago, Brigham Young, Northern Colorado and Gonzaga.
WSU opens Pacific-10 Conference play Friday, Mar. 23, against rival Washington, the first of a three-game set. Remaining home conference opponents include Arizona and Stanford while UCLA closes out the conference schedule May 18-20.
Conference road series include California, Arizona State, Southern California and a meeting at defending NCAA champion Oregon State, May 11-13.