Washington State Baseball’s head coach Marty Lees, alongside left-handed pitcher AJ Block and senior shortstop Andres Alvarez, gave the 2019 lineup a firm vote of confidence in Wednesday’s press conference.
“You’d have to ask (Block and Alvarez), but I think it’s the best it’s ever been,” Lees said of his team’s chemistry. “I can’t remember a practice this fall where there wasn’t energy and there wasn’t a will to get better.”
A settling note for fans of WSU baseball as the roster is laced with new faces and fresh off a bumpy 16-32-1 campaign last season. The Cougars haven’t had a winning season since their 29-27 mark in 2015 under Lees’ predecessor Donnie Marbut.
Lees’ and Co. have reason to believe 2019 will be different, however, as the lineup features experienced talent from catcher, to middle infield, and then out to center.
“Sitting right next to me (Alvarez) is a shortstop who had one error in Pac-12 play last year,” Lees said.
Alvarez was tenth in the conference for assists as a byproduct. And with senior Robert Teel behind the plate and junior Danny Sinatro – who was ninth in the Pac-12 for steals – at center field, Washington State has clear leadership in the clubhouse.
Benefiting greatly from this leadership is freshman duo Kodie Kolden and Kyle Manzardo – both hailing from Idaho’s Lake City High School. Lees’ wasn’t shy about setting a high bar for his new infielders either.
“I think Kyle Manzardo will be one of the best hitters to ever come through Washington State,” Lees said. “I feel like I can start him at first base anytime.”
As for now, Dillon Plew – in his second official position change with the Cougars – will take first base. The 6-foot-3 junior locked down the hot corner last season but initially played second base before that.
Kolten will earn the start at third, but Lees also mentioned the freshman could see time at shortstop behind Alvarez.
As for the rest of the lineup, expect to see New Mexico transfer Garrett Gouldsmith at second, sophomore Brody Barnum in right, and sophomore Collin Montez in left.
Anticipated local freshman Koby Blunt, a product out of Clarkson High School and former Great Northern League MVP, is out with an injury according to Lees and will not see the diamond for a few weeks.
Washington State’s four-game series with the Gaels opens with AJ Block on the mound. The starting rotation then moves to freshman Ky Bush (Collegiate Debut), junior-college transfer Dylan Steen, and finally sophomore Hayden Rosenkrantz for the latter three contests.
The entirety of the Wednesday’s presser can be found in the video above.