“Boom, here come the Cougs.”
Those were the words of Washington State baseball coach Brian Green when describing Nate Swarts’ go-ahead two-run single in the eighth inning in a 5-3 victory Sunday against USC.
But that phrase also could be used to describe the Cougars’ past two weeks on the diamond in general.
WSU (19-23) will wrap up a seven-game homestand this weekend starting at 6:05 p.m. today against Utah Valley (16-28) at Bailey-Brayton Field, weather permitting.
The Cougars enter the three-game series against the Western Athletic Conference school having won five of their past six games.
In the past month, they earned series wins against No. 10 Oregon and No. 9 Arizona and a nonconference victory April 26 against No. 11 Gonzaga.
Most recently, WSU took two of three from the Trojans.
It’s a resurgence for a team that at one point lost 10 consecutive games.
“We’ve got a good vibe going right now,” Green said.
In Sunday’s win against USC, WSU received five shutout innings from junior starter McKabe Cottrell, who struck out four in his battle with Trojans ace Charlie Hurley.
It was one of the best showings of the season for Cottrell (1-6, 6.98 ERA), a left-hander from Spokane Valley who struggled early in the year.
“What a great start by him and we needed it, but that’s two in a row for him, so there’s some positives to build on,” Green said. “They throw their best guy on Sunday and McKabe went toe-to-toe with him and gets us to the fifth. Happy for McKabe; great performance by him.”
The Cougars own a 16-7 all-time record against Utah Valley. They beat the Wolverines 6-3 in their lone meeting last season in Orem, Utah.
Utah Valley has lost five of its past six games, but beat No. 25 Grand Canyon 10-6 in its most recent outing Saturday.
The Wolverines are not a powerful pitching team (6.93 ERA), however they feature a dangerous hitter in Mitch Moralez (.367 average, five HRs).
WSU continues to be paced at the plate by veterans Jack Smith (.342, 12 doubles, 27 RBI) and Jacob McKeon (.336, 15 extra-base hits).
In their bi-weekly radio coach’s show ahead of the USC series, host Matt Chazanow called the Cougars a “hot” team and Green jokingly asked him to repeat the phrase.
“I didn’t think we were going to be able to say that this year,” Green said. “Our game has changed, and it’s a really great lesson for our program moving forward (to) stay the course, work hard, put your head down … and good things will happen.”
With fewer than three full weeks left in the regular season, it’s a good time to be hot.
Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, email@example.com or on Twitter @StephanSports.