FAYETTEVILLE―It was pretty easy for Washington State head coach Donnie Marbut to show why the Cougars keeping winning come-from-behind games.
After the team just rallied for the nineteenth victory while being down, he turned to his left and pointed at two players―junior second baseman Cody Barlett and senior designated hitter Matt Fanelli.
“It’s these guys,” Marbut said. “It’s been a different season for us. But we have been talking about being led within. These guys have been around the block a little bit and seen things―good and bad.”
Barlett hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning to center field to give the Cougars a lead and capp off another win in a fashion they are pretty used to at this point.
“I think we might make our coaches pull their hair out at some points,” said Fanelli, who finished 2-for-4 with a run and two RBIs. “We have been in this situation so much coming from behind. We don’t lose faith.”
The come-from-behind efforts slotted the Cougars into a matchup with Arkansas at 7:05 p.m. Saturday night when Arkansas will throw Drew Smyly (8-1, 2.54 ERA) with Washington State countering with their ace―Adam Conley (5-3, 3.13 ERA).
But it’s just the match up the the Cougars wanted, facing the an Arkansas program that swept them to start the season last year and helped knock them out of the Norman Regional to end the season.
“Arkansas has been one of the hottest programs around in the last two years,” Fanelli said. “Last year with their Omaha run is something we want to emulate. Giving us a chance to face them on their home field gives us a good test.”
Marbut said somethings have changed since the two teams last met and Arkansas (41-18) took its fourth straight victory over the Cougars (35-20).
“Arkansas is a completely different team,” Marbut said. “We’re a new team as well. Coach (Dave) Van Horn’s clubs are fun clubs to play. But not so much for us the last four ball games.”
But for Marbut and the coaching staff, they just hope the Cougars can keep the come-from-behind efforts going on the field.
“My wife gives me a hard time that we put them behind,” Marbut said smiling. “And then the players put us over the top. Hopefully we can stay out of their way.”