WHAT: Cal State Northridge (11-10) at Washington State (11-7)
WHERE: Bailey-Brayton Field (3,500),Pullman, WA
WHEN: Sat. DH at noon; Sun. at 2 p.m.; Mon. at noon.
TV/RADIO: No TV; 104.7 FM and 1150 AM in Pullman (Matt Chazanow); Online at wsucougars.com; Webstream through Pac-12.org.
SERIES HISTORY: WSU leads 15-12
LAST SERIES: 2014 (CSUN won 2-1)
After a four-game road trip to southern California, including a 3-game series at USC to open Pac-12 play, Washington State jumps out of the conference for a four-game weekend series against Cal State Northridge in Pullman.
Friday’s series opener was postponed by inclement weather. The two teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday and single games on Sunday and Monday.
LHP Cody Anderson, fifth in the Pac-12 in ERA (1.80) and seventh in strikeouts (31), has burst onto the scene and emerged as WSU’s best pitcher through the first five weekends of the season.
Anderson allowed just one run on five hits with six strikeouts in eight effective innings last Sunday at USC, firing 16 straight strikes at one point. Anderson owns a 3-0 record, the fifth-best ERA in the Pac-12 (1.80) and a team-best 31 strikeouts.
“Cody knows who he is and you see that when he is on the mound,” Lees said. “He brings a great personality to our dugout and our team. His energy is catching on to others. He gets very excited when people around him do something good. He celebrates that. Because of that, he loosens up and pitches the way he wants.
“We have played pretty well behind him and it’s no secret why. With his personality on the mound, he keeps the pace going. He basically calls his own game. He is an older guy, so he can control the running game. He truly understands the importance of 90 feet. It’s been fun. I love it. He has our dugout believing.”
Besides Anderson, another pleasant surprise has been freshman second baseman and leadoff hitter Dillon Plew, who has started his career with hits in 11 of WSU’s 18 games and has reached base in 16 games.
Plew has six multiple-hit games, including a three-hit outing against Utah Valley and added his first career home run against Long Beach State last week. The Kennewick, Wash. native enters the weekend with team highs in walks (14) and runs scored (15).
“I didn’t expect him to (bat leadoff) in August,” Lees said. “He has really slowed some things down to compete at a high level. He has one of the best eyes for the strike zone I’ve ever coached. He is very aware of the strike zone is. He is getting better at second base. It’s a foreign land to him.
“In January, we worked him out at third and short, but we had our two guys to play those spots. Once we started winter workouts, we realized we had to find a place for Dillon to play. Second base was a wide open position when we got back from break. He has done a good job. He’s learning how to play second base every day.”
-- Junior 3B Shane Matheny paces the Cougars with a .404 batting average, fifth in the Pac-12, and shares the team lead of 13 RBI with sophomore catcher Cory Meyer. Matheny has hit safely in 11 straight games. Meyer is batting .339. “Cory has done a really good job at the plate all year,” Lees said. “He has been able to hit both fastballs and off-speed pitches.”
-- Junior reliever Scotty Sunitsch enters the weekend tied for second in the Pac-12 with five saves.
-- Cal State Northridge dropped three of four games to Saint Mary’s last weekend. Earlier this season, CSUN took two of three games at Vanderbilt. The Matadors return 16 lettermen from a team that went 33-22 in 2016 with a 11-13 mark in the Big West Conference. Head coach Greg Moore is in his fourth season. “They are similar to us offensively,” Lees said. “They have some good power numbers. Their starting pitching is outstanding. They are strike throwers. I’ve known their head coach for a long time.”
-- WSU enters the weekend among the Pac-12 leaders in a couple categories. Offensively, the Cougars are second in the league in slugging (.424) and doubles (42), third in batting average (.283), tied for third in stolen bases (21) and tied for fifth in on-base percentage (.376). The pitching staff has picked off a league-best six baserunners while the defense is tied for the second-most double plays turned (19). WSU shares the conference lead for most potential base stealers thrown out (12).
-- Lees described centerfield as a “revolving door” so far this season. Freshman Danny Sinatro will get an opportunity to play there at some point this weekend, Lees said. “We have big plans for him, but it has been a transition going from infield to outfield,” Lees said. “He needs time to do that. We’ve been working with him for about a month now. He’s fast and he can hit and he’s a hard worker. He’ll share time with others out there.”
-- MISCELLANEOUS: Cougars 1B James Rudkin owns a team-best 15-game on-base streak. . .Eight freshmen have played for the Cougars in 2017. . .SS Andres Alvarez leads WSU with seven 2-out RBI while Hancock and Cory Meyer are second with 6. . . Sophomore Justin Harrer has adjusted well to the outfield after starting 34 games at shortstop last season. He made two outstanding catches in last weekend’s USC series. He enters the weekend tied for second on WSU with eight doubles and tied for third with 10 RBI.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Sat. (DH) – WSU LHP Damon Jones (1-1) vs. CSN RHP Andrew Weston (3-1)(Game 1); WSU RHP Ryan Walker (1-2) vs. CSN RHP Tei Vanderford (3-1)(Game 2)
Sun – WSU LHP Cody Anderson (3-0) vs. CSN RHP Samuel Myers (2-2).
Mon – WSU LHP A.J. Block (0-0) vs. CSN TBA.
UP NEXT: The Cougs travel to California for a 3-game Pac-12 series in Berkeley, Calif. beginning Friday, March 31.
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— WSU Cougars (@WSUCougars) March 21, 2017