BASEBALL: DQ Classic up next for 4-1 Cougars

NOW THAT Donnie Marbut has done what he could to fix what ailed the WSU basketball team, the Cougs baseball coach will turn his focus back to the diamond this weekend at the Dairy Queen Classic in Tucson, Ariz. Marbut, whose motivational skills no doubt have played a role in numerous late-inning rallies in recent years, spoke to the struggling hoops team at coach Ken Bone's request last Friday.

Coincidentally or not, the Cougars played with renewed grit and focus Sunday in a convincing triumph at Washington.

"If it helped, great," Donnie Marbut said this week. "If I knew that would work for them, I'd talk to them everyday.

"But man," he joked, "I hope I can help my team once in a while!"

The Cougars take a 4-1 record to the 28th annual DQ Classic. The four-team, round-robin tournament, hosted by the Minnesota Gophers, was moved from Minneapolis to Tucson's Kino Sports Complex -- the former spring training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox -- after the Metrodome roof collapsed due to heavy snow in December.

WSU takes on Oklahoma State (6-2) at 3:05 p.m. Friday, Minnesota (3-3) at 12:05 p.m. Saturday and South Alabama (5-2) at 8:30 a.m. Sunday. The Cougars return home to face Dallas Baptist (5-2) on Monday and Tuesday.

None of the teams are ranked in the major polls. Oklahoma State came in 35th in voting for the USA Today/ESPN Top 25, and WSU tied for 37th.

WSU southpaw Adam Conley (2-0, 1.29) is expected to start in the mound Friday against Oklahoma State right-hander Brad Propst (2-0, 1.38) or lefty Andrew Heaney (2-0, 0.00). Senior catcher Jay Ponciano, banged up in preseason practice, hopes to make his season debut this weekend.

The Cougars expect to play in temperatures in the 70's in Tucson. That's a welcome contrast to the sub-20's temps the Cougars endured in a Saturday doubleheader sweep of UC Santa Barbara. Snow erased the series finale Sunday in Pullman.

Senior third baseman Matt Argyropoulos and freshman outfielder Jason Monda are leading the Cougars at the plate in the early going. Argyropoulos is hitting .533 (8-for-15) with two homers and six RBIs. Monda is batting .471 with a double, triple and four RBIs.

The Cougars are openly taking aim at the College World Series after being stopped at the four-team regionals each of the past two seasons. Marbut said he wants his players to view the four-team DQ Classic as a regional, even though there is no title game.

"Our goal is to win this ‘regional,'" he said.

Marbut hopes he's already helped one Cougar team get a win this week.

"On some campuses, there's some coaches, they don't pull for each other," Marbut said. "But when you're a Coug, you want those teams to play well and you want those players to play well and you want coaches to do well."

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