Nerves ran high on Sunday afternoon at Bailey-Brayton Field as the WSU Cougars and California Golden Bears battled for 10 innings in the final game of their three-game series.
The Cougars eventually prevailed 6-5 on a walk-off RBI single by senior Michael Monda in the bottom of the 10th inning that scored sophomore Patrick McGrath from third base. Monda’s hit rolled just far enough between the shortstop and third baseman that allowed him to reach first base safely and to drive in the winning run.
Monda batted in junior outfielder Yale Rosen’s spot in the lineup after a substitution in the bottom of the seventh inning took the star hitter out of the game. Still, Rosen found a way to make an impact once Monda ended the game.
“When I was in the hole, I was talking to Yale, and he told me, ‘Mike, if you get it done, I’m going to tackle you as hard as I can,’” Michael Monda said. “So I get around first base and of course the first person I see is this guy with a huge beard coming at me, and he just lays me out, so that was definitely one of my more special memories in baseball.”
The Cougars found a way to overcome Rosen’s absence in the lineup more than once in the game. After freshman closer Ian Hamilton blew the save in the top of the ninth by relinquishing a one-run lead and allowing the Golden Bears to score three times, the Cougars kept the game alive in the bottom half of the inning.
Senior Collin Slaybaugh and sophomore Trek Stemp started the inning with back-to-back singles, and freshman Wes Leow, batting in Rosen’s spot, walked to load the bases. Redshirt sophomore Nick Tanielu grounded the ball to second base, which drove in a run and left runners at the corners with one out. Then redshirt sophomore Ben Roberts delivered an RBI single to tie the game at 5-5, but he and Tanielu were left on base as the next two batters could not find a way to push across anything more. From there, it was up to Monda.
“Unfortunately we had to go into extras, so it hurts to not have Yale, but when you have people that can get on base or do other things, it really helps,” Michael Monda said. “That says a lot about the team, and there’s a lot of guys that can come up big on this team.”
Senior starter Jason Monda, Michael’s twin brother, pitched seven strong innings and allowed one run on five hits. However, he did not earn the victory because of the bullpen’s struggles. Nevertheless, the win earned the Cougars a sweep against the Golden Bears and extended their winning streak to six games.
“When it comes down to it, if the Cougs win, then that’s all you have to worry about,” Jason Monda said. “I felt like I came out and battled today and gave our team a chance to win, and if I get the win, then Mike doesn’t get the chance to come up in extra innings and get the walk-off, so I’ll take that.”
WSU had success early on in the game in support of Monda on the mound. One run in each of the first, fifth, and sixth innings staked a 3-1 lead to Monda after he left in favor of junior Sam Triece in the top of the eighth inning. Triece struck out the first batter he faced, but that was the only out he recorded.
A walk followed by a balk put a runner at second base, and then senior Devon Rodriguez singled to bring in the Golden Bears’ first run since the second inning. Sophomore Matt Bower and senior Kellen Camus each faced one batter after that, and both recorded strikeouts to end the inning and preserve the lead for Hamilton. The rest was history.
Sophomore Mitchell Kranson hit an RBI double to tie the game, and the Golden Bears tallied two more after that to set up the Cougar comeback.
“From the get-go, I don’t know if that’s how I would have seen the game ending, but it was awesome to see the way we battled back and we just kept fighting and obviously Mike up at the end of the game, there’s no one else we would rather have up in that situation,” Jason Monda said.
The Cougars will play a home-away-from-home game Tuesday night in Pasco, Wash., against Brigham Young University.