2014 saw Washington State Baseball show glimpses of a team we have not seen in this decade under Danny Marbut. The Cougars 24-30 record and specifically their 14-16 finish in the Pac 12 was the best success the team has had in conference play since the 2009-10 season that saw them finish 3rd in the conference and earned them a spot in the NCAA Regionals.
While the Cougars did show great improvement, especially on the offense side of the ball, 2014-15 brings a fresh set of new faces to the lineup. With the Cougars losing both their top two contact bats in 3rd Baseman Nick Tanielu and utility player Colin Slaybaugh and leading home run hitter Yale Rosen to graduation the Cougs will need to replace these bats in their lineup. Both Rosen and Tanielu were named to the Pac-12 All Conference team last year for their efforts. All three players were drafted in last years Major League Basbeall’s first year player draft, Rosen being selected in the 11th round by the San Diego Padres, Tanielu going in the 14th to the Houston Astros and Slaybaugh going in the 26th to the Yankees.
The Cougs are returning three players from their starting lineup from last year, starting 2nd baseman Ian Sagdal, Outfielder Ben Roberts and Catcher P.J. Jones. All three upperclassmen will be looked at to bring leadership to a team that has not finished better than 7th in the Pac 12 since 2010. Returning bench players who are expected to make an impact on this year’s team include Tanielu’s replacement at 3rd base Patrick Mcgrath and Outfielders Wes Leow and Cameron Frost, all of which combined for only about 150 at bats last year.
The Cougars first series will a non-conference tournament held by Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, Texas starting on February 13th. The Cougars will play four games in four days against Stephen F. Austin twice (20-35), University of Texas-Arlington (33-26) and Missouri State (26-31). It will be important for the Cougs to start the year better than they did last year, going only 3-7 in their first ten games last year. The Cougs do not have their first home game until February 26th when they will take on UC Riverside, a team that beat the Cougs last year 12-7 in Riverside, California.
Will this finally be the year the Cougar Baseball team takes that next step and returns back to the top of the Pac-12? Something Cougar fans have not seen since the days of legendary baseball coach Chuck Brayton who’s career record of 1162–523–8 (.689) and 11 straight conference championships has yet to be matched. Only one thing is clear, this year’s Cougar Baseball team will be one to keep your eye on.