Kevin AnthonyHerald staff writerFirst and foremost, the Washington State baseball team is in town to take a game or three off its rival from Seattle.But a close second is giving the crimson-and-gray faithful in the Tri-Cities a good show to drum up excitement for the program.In other words, put a little shine on that Diamond Classic.Friday night’s 4-3 loss to the Washington Huskies fit that bill just fine, with some home-grown thrills and late-inning chills keeping the 2,739 fans at Gesa Stadium at the edge of their seats.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, the same defensive bugaboos that have bitten them all season took a big chomp out of their chances.
A pair of errors helped Jayce Ray’s leadoff double come around and allowed one more UW run as the Huskies went ahead for good in a sloppy eighth inning.
“We lack focus and concentration defensively,” said Cougs coach Donnie Marbut. “Basically, we gave them 32 outs, and it’s tough enough with 27.”
The Cougs (21-28, 8-17 Pac-12) and Huskies (20-31, 11-14) will continue their three-game series at Gesa at 2 p.m. today.
The local thrills came from junior Brett Jacobs and freshman Trek Stemp, their respective high school heydays at Richland and Kennewick still fresh in the minds of local fans. Each got a hit, Stemp going 1-for-5 and reaching base twice at the top of the order.
He scored a run in the ninth and also gunned down a runner trying to score from second on a single to left early in the game.
Jacobs went 1-for-4 with a sacrifice bunt that set the table for P.J. Jones’ RBI single in the sixth. He also made a nice diving stop at first to finally end that pivotal eighth inning, but he ended the game grounding out to second with the tying run at third.
“That’s the story of our season, that game,” Jacobs said. “It’s tough.”
The Cougs got a big start from Joe Pistorese. The sophomore lefty gave up just four hits over seven innings, and could just as easily been working on a shutout. The Huskies scored an unearned run in the fourth when a leadoff error came around, and a leadoff double in the sixth started out a routine fly to left that Stemp lost it in the lights.
“Joe gave us a good effort,” Marbut said.
But in the end, the Cougs’ inability to turn 13 hits into more than three runs haunted them.
Huskies starter Jared Fisher was solid for five innings, but it was the relief work of Tyler Davis and Trevor Dunlap that came through as each worked two scoreless innings.
And while the WSU team enjoyed the atmosphere of playing in front of one of their highest “home” crowds, Jacobs emphasized, “For us, it’s a business trip. We want to win.”
Notes: Stemp, who has been hampered by an injured hip, has been caught stealing four times this season (3-for-7), more than his entire four-year career at Kennewick. “I was picked off once my senior year (32-for-33) — Jake Browne from Hanford. ... I think I was caught three times my whole high school career.” ... Jacobs is one of four WSU players who will be honored Sunday during the final “home” game for the Cougs. Jacobs, fellow redshirt junior Adam Nelubowich and seniors Kyle Swannack and Richie Ochoa are the only remaining players from the 2009 recruiting class. ... The baseball rivalry between WSU and UW dates back to 1901, and it has traveled around the Northwest — Pullman and Seattle, obviously; Spokane and Lewiston, understandably; and Richland, Pasco and Yakima as well. ... The Huskies won the first Diamond Classic game 4-2 in 2011. The Cougars won by the same score last year against Portland.
Washington 000 101 020 — 4 7 2
Washington State 001 001 001 — 3 13 4
Fisher, Davis (6), Dunlap (8) and Guinn; Pistorese, Leckenby (8) and Jones. Highlights—Forgione (UW) 2x4, 2B; Ely (UW) 2B; Ray (UW) 2B; Stemp (WSU) 1x5, R; Slaybaugh (WSU) 2x5; Monda (WSU) 2x3; Nelubowich (WSU) 2x5; Jacobs (WSU) 1x4; Sagdal (WSU) 2x4.