February 14, 1999
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The Washington State baseball team tied or broke five school records Sunday and Jason Grove became the first player in 103 years of Cougar baseball to hit three home runs in consecutive at-bats in a 23-14 non-conference defeat of the New Mexico State Aggies at Presley Askew Field.
The Cougs came out of the gates hot, tagging NMSU starter Pat Leach (0-3) for 10 runs in the opening frame. Ray Hattenburg (Spokane, Wash.) sparked the hit parade with a two-run home run and Grove (Walla Walla, Wash.) followed with a solo shot. It was the first time the Cougars have hit back-to-back home runs since Casey Kelley and Greg Mitchell went deep against Lewis-Clark State on May 2, 1998.
After a two-run double by Ryan Smith (Port Orchard, Wash.) and a two-run single by Boyd Robertson (Richland, Wash.), the table was set for Grove to enter the WSU record books. The sophomore sensation drove a fastball deep over the right field fence, becoming the first Cougar to hit two home runs in one inning. The 10-run first inning was the most runs WSU has scored in an inning since they tallied 11 against Gonzaga April 25, 1997.
The Cougars continued to scorch the ball in the second tagging NMSU for six more runs. Hattenburg added a bases-clearing three-run double, and Grove etched his name one more time in the Cougar record books hitting his third home run in as many at-bats.
Left-handed reliever Matt O'Brien (Seattle, Wash.) was nothing short of spectacular in his first appearance in a Cougar uniform. O'Brien (1-0) pitched in relief of WSU starter Todd Meldahl (Butte, Mont.), and threw four innings of one hit shutout ball while striking out four. At one point between the fifth and eighth innings, O'Brien retired nine consecutive Aggie batters. Meldahl was shaky in his season debut, lasting only two and two-thirds innings giving up eight earned runs. Robin Guiver (Felton, Calif.) and Reggie Rivard (Bonnyville, Alberta) also saw mound duty in the Cougs second win of the season.
At the plate the Cougar bats came alive to tie a school record with 25 hits. WSU set the record of 25 in 1996 against Dartmouth in the Kingdome at the Husky Baseball Classic. Six Cougar players recorded at least two hits and only one starter failed to get in the hit column. Jeff Scherer (Kennewick, Wash.) tied a school record with six hits. The senior catcher/designated hitter ended his career day going 6-for-7 with three doubles, two runs scored, and two RBIs. The three doubles also ties a school record.
In his first action of '99, Smith fell just inches short of reaching a baseball rarity in hitting for the cycle. The junior catcher connected on a double in the first inning, a triple in the fifth, a single in the seventh, and his second triple in the ninth that nearly left the yard. Smith's two triples tied a school record that was last achieved by Ty Solomon in 1996.
Hattenburg was also one rung away from the elusive cycle, missing just a triple from his 4-for-6 performance. Grove added a single to his three home run day, and improved his season average to .625 (10-for-16). Also notable for the Cougars was newcomer David Perreira (Ewa Beach, Hawai'i). In his first series as a Cougar, the third baseman has turned some heads while hitting at a .533 clip. Perriera was 3-for-6 Sunday with his first career home run as a Coug.
New Mexico State infielder Chris Weekly continued hit hot hitting against the Cougars, going 5-for-6 Sunday. Weekly is now 9-for-16 against Cougar pitchers. First baseman Mike Marvel added a four-hit day as the Aggies dropped its eighth game of the season.
The Cougars (2-1) and Aggies (2-8) play the final game of the four-game series with a 10 a.m. contest Monday at Presley Askew Field. Freshman Lanakila Niles (Pearl City, Hawai'i) will be making his Cougar debut as he gets the start on the mound.
WSU (10)60 120 004 - 23 25 3 NMSU 414 210 002 - 14 17 2