Cougars' five-run eighth too much for Bears in series opener
PULLMAN, Wash. -- Joe Willman pitched five-plus effective innings Friday, and relievers Cameron Tallman and Dan Talley combined for two-plus scoreless innings in Northern Colorado's 8-2 loss to Washington State.
Those three provided a sharp contrast to the pitching struggles that plagued the Bears in their home-opening series against North Dakota State last weekend in Greeley.
Chris Hammer, however, who didn't pitch in any of the Bears' four games last weekend, struggled Friday, and that was the only window the Pac-12 Cougars (6-2) would need at Bailey-Brayton Field.
Hammer relieved Talley in the eighth inning with Northern Colorado (0-5) down just 3-2 after freshman Ryan Yamane's two-RBI single to left in the top of the eighth had scored Adrian Schenk and Tony Crudo.
Hammer faced five Washington State batters, and, unfortunately, they all reached base.
The Cougars responded to the Bears' surge with their first nine batters all reaching against Hammer and then Talley. When the smoke cleared on the frame, Washington State had collected seven hits and scored five times to blow the game open.
It all took the focus off Willman (0-2), the Bears' staff leader, who fared much better in his second start of the season than he did in his first.
After allowing five runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Bison last week, Willman was solid Friday against a team that advanced to an NCAA Regional two years ago. He struck out four, walked only two and left with two outs in the sixth inning trailing just 3-0.
Tallman finished out the sixth and pitched a scoreless seventh to set the stage for Hammer, who has been hyped this preseason by Bears head coach Carl Iwasaki but showed some early signs of rust.
Sophomore J.D. Leckenby (2-1) started for Washington State and lasted 7 2/3 innings, gave up a run on six hits, struck out five and didn't walk a batter
Down 3-0 going into the eighth, Northern Colorado scored its only runs of the game after Crudo led off the inning with a single to left and, with two outs, Shenk reached after getting hit by a pitch and freshman Jensen Park singled to shortstop.
Iwasaki called on Yamane in a pinch-hit situation, and he delivered, stroking the first pitch he saw deep into the left-field gap. He was stranded on second when Adam Hilker struck out to end the inning.
Park finished 2-for-3 at the plate, and Crudo had two hits in four at-bats.
The teams will continue this three-game series at 1 p.m. (MT) tomorrow in Pullman. Right-hander Kyle Swannack is scheduled to start for Washington State, while his mound mate for the Bears is yet to be determined.