The Cougar Diamond Classic is always fun time for the Washington State faithful in the Tri-Cities. However, this year there was a little added adventure.
In addition to their normal duties, the outfielders were tasked with navigating what looked more like a pot-hole filled country road than a stadium outfield, dealing with all sorts of funny hops, skips, and jumps.
Throw in some fireworks and a Cougar victory and it made for an entertaining night at Gesa Stadium on Tuesday. Washington State scored runs in five of the first six innings on its way to 7-3 non conference victory over the Portland Pilots in front of more than 3,000 fans. It marked the third straight win for Cougars over the Pilots in the Cougar Diamond Classic.
“We love playing here; we love the people, we have great fans here,” said Cougars coach Donnie Marbut. “I am just glad we got to come down here and play some good baseball.”
The Cougars’ (27-23) win Tuesday night included some contributions from a pair of Kennewick products.
Jesse Houser, the former Kamiakin standout, threw an inning of scoreless relief, getting the Cougars out of jam in the fifth inning. Houser struck out the only batter he faced in the inning, as the Pilots (10-40) left runners at second and third base with the Cougars in front 4-2. It was Houser’s ninth appearance on the season.
“It’s great to play in front of everyone that has supported us,” Houser said. “Hopefully it will give us some momentum.”
The Cougars left early this morning for Tempe, Ariz., where they being a three-game series Thursday against Arizona State.
Former Kennewick High standout and Cougar freshman, J.J. Hancock caught the final four innings Tuesday. It was his 14th appearance on the season for a young Cougar team that started six freshmen Tuesday night.
“We have to keep getting better and better everyday,” said Hancock, who was 0-2 at the plate. “That is the goal every time.”
The Cougars struck first in the bottom of the first inning thanks to a throwing error by Portland catcher Devin Kopas. With two outs, Kopas tried to gun down Ian Sagdal trying to steal second base, but his throw squirted into center field, allowing Wes Hatten to score from third.
Sagdal led the Cougars offense with three RBIs, and walked three times.
Sam Triece got the win for WSU to improve to 5-0 on the season. He pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings and did not allow a hit and struck out four.
WSU extended the lead to 3-0 on a two-run triple off the base of the center field wall by Sagdal, plating Jack Strunc and Derek Chapman.
Portland got on the board in the top of the fifth inning with a pair of runs off of Colby Nealy. Turner Gill hit the third straight single of the inning, scoring Cody Lenahan. Michael Lucarelli scored two batters later on a throwing error by Shane Matheny to cut the lead to 4-2. Houser ended the Pilots’ threat, striking out Dan Whittaker with runners at second and third to end the inning.
“This is one of those games we loved to play and we will be back next year,” Marbut said.