L-C, Kooken K.O. Cougars; Warrior junior's ninth-inning blast provides
winning margin in 6-5 triumph over Washington State
By MATT BANEY
Copyright of The Trib
OF THE TRIBUNE
The swirling winds that whipped Harris Field on Wednesday night also
carried a mess of missed opportunities. The Washington State and Lewis-Clark
State baseball teams both had chances to seize control throughout the
evening, but never capitalized.
Then, in the bottom of the ninth, the Warriors' D.J. Kooken performed the
game's most cold-blooded act.
With the score tied, the right-handed junior launched a solo homer to
center field. Kooken's walk-off bomb gave LCSC a 6-5 victory over the
Cougars, and provided a dramatic final chapter to a rather flawed contest.
With one out and the count at 1-1, Kooken expected a curveball from WSU
pitcher Steve Kost. The left-handed freshman obliged, and Kooken mashed a
high shot that drifted just left of straight-away center.
The drive might have actually been helped by the evening's persistent
gusts. It wasn't a certain homer when it left Kooken's bat, but ended up
clearing the wall easily.
"I just put my head down and started running after I hit it," Kooken
said. "I haven't hit too many home runs this year."
Actually, until that shot, he hadn't hit any home runs this season. As he
rounded first, he pumped his fist once. And just before reaching home, he
ripped the batting helmet off his head -- then waded through a celebratory
pummeling from his teammates after crossing the plate.
Kooken, in his first year at L-C, made his biggest splash earlier this
month, when he smacked four doubles against Eastern Oregon -- a single-game
"This is way more exciting," Kooken said. "I mean, that's just a record,
but I contributed to a win right here against our rivals. That's way
Kooken, who replaced Brandon Morris at designated hitter in the seventh,
has now appeared in 17 of the Warriors' 43 games.
"I was thinking about that tonight: We've got to get this guy in the
lineup," L-C coach Ed Cheff said. "The guy can hit, he's competitive, he's
got a good mentality. ... (But) he can't really play anywhere but second."
Before Kooken's homer, WSU (18-24) also conjured some clutch play. Down
by a run in the top of the ninth, Jay Miller led off with a single, then
moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch. Miller then came home
on Brady Everett's single, making it 5-5.
The Cougars' most costly misstep came in the fifth. After opening the
inning with two hits, Everett slapped an RBI single. An error by LCSC
shortstop Matt Vogel then allowed another run to score, tying the game 4-4.
But on an attempted hit-and-run, batter Jim Murphy couldn't make contact
on the pitch, and a baserunner was gunned out at third. Two batters later,
the Warriors got a groundball to end the inning.
"We just flat-out missed the hit-and-run," WSU coach Donnie Marbut said.
"Those are the little things that cost you ballgames."
The Warriors (37-6, winners of nine straight) also missed a chance in the
fifth. After the first three batters reached safely, the Cougars brought in
righty Brett Sommer. He recorded three successive outs without allowing a
run to cross.
These teams, who have each beaten the other once, will meet for a third
and final time May 11 at Pullman.
NOTES -- LCSC's Joey Dyche extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a
single in the sixth. He went 1-for-4, dropping his season average to .506.
... The last time an LCSC-WSU game ended with a walk-off home run was in
1999. A two-run blast by Toby Cheff in the 11th gave the Warriors a 5-3
triumph. "How about that? I don't even remember when my kid hit one," Ed
Cheff said. ... For the first time since the beginning of last season, the
Warriors climbed to No. 1 in the NAIA rankings. The poll, released
Wednesday, has Houston Baptist in second and former No. 1 Embry-Riddle
(Fla.) at third. Oklahoma City is fourth and Bellevue (Neb.) is fifth.