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Cougar Corner: WSU Shocks Wichita State by Going Deep for 3-2 Win

Lew WrightSenior Writer IJune 1, 2009

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 13:  A Washington State Cougars helmet showing the initials of Pat Tillman next to the American flag during the Arizona State Sun Devils against Washington State Cougars Pac-10 game at Sun Devil Stadium/Frank Kush Field on November 13, 2004 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

The Washington State Cougars defeated Wichita State, 3-2, Saturday afternoon to record their first NCAA tournament win in 19 years.

The Shockers were shocked.

It wasn't that No. 3 seed Washington State downed the No. 4 seed, Wichita State, it was the way they went about putting runs on the scoreboard.

With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Jay Ponciano drew a walk—hardly electrifying stuff.

Wichita State starter Jordan Cooper was on his game and had Cougar batters on their heels all game. Cooper might have been a little too careful with Ponciano, but didn't appear worried.

The next batter for the Cougs was freshman Derek Jones, who had been hitless in the NCAA regional (0-for-6) and had struck out swinging in his first at-bats against Cooper.

The Wichita State dugout calmly watched Cooper get set to mow down another Cougar batter.

But what happened next was electrifying.

Cooper left a fastball out over the plate and Jones hit it nearly all the way to Kansas to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead. The question wasn't whether his blast would leave the ballpark, but how far did it go?

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Then came the real shocker.

On Cooper's very next pitch, Jared Prince jolted another fastball that was left over the plate. There was no doubt that the ball launched by Prince was out from the very instant it left his bat.

Prince proudly circled the bases to record his seventh homer of the season and plate the Cougs third run to put them up by two.

A fair description of the Cougars offense would be "punch and Judy." In other words, they win games with timely hits.

Usually those knocks stay inside the ballpark. You just don't expect to see back-to-back home runs by Washington State—not this season anyway.

While Cooper had been shutting down the Cougs up to that point, Chad Arnold was pitching a gem of his own. Arnold had given up one unearned run while keeping the Shockers off balance with his curve ball.

How did Arnold react to seeing his team take the lead in the bottom of the sixth?

All he did was strike out the side in the top of the 7th for a career best 9 strikeouts in the game. Arnold would fan one more Wichita State batter before leaving the game in the top of the 8th.

Coach Donnie Marbut went to his bullpen counting on finding order restored following the fiasco of the eighth inning in Friday's game.

That was history to be forgotten.

It was just yesterday that the Cougs couldn't hold on to a 3-1 lead in the NCAA opener.

"Baseball is a funny game," Coach Marbut said. "Yesterday, we had nine hits, struck out once, and lost. Today, we got three hits, punched out 10 times, and won. Our strength has been our pitching all year and today Chad Arnold pitched his best game as a Cougar."

Saturday Coach Marbut expected his relief pitchers to preserve a 3-2 lead.

Would the Cougs closer Jeremy Johnson shake off the disaster that was the eighth inning of Friday's game?

Johnson took the ball in the top of the ninth and did his job.

The Cougars overcame an outstanding pitching performance by Cooper to extend their season, and although Washington State needs three more wins to advance out of the Norman, Oklahoma regional, they will continue to do what they do best.

Play Cougar baseball.

Playing one game at a time, this team has now discovered what it takes to win in the post-season against excellent competition.


Originally published on Examiner.com

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