Super Seniors Ready to Make a Run
Andy Grammer's "Back Home" isn't Washington State's theme song for no reason, as its athletes and teams know to cherish every moment they get in Pullman. WSU baseball's super seniors don't plan on wasting any time in their last season in the crimson and gray, as the one goal they have in mind is getting the Cougars back to Omaha for the College World Series.
"This university deserves to go back to Omaha," senior infielder Jack Smith said. "That's all I want to do. I want to go to Omaha; I want to make those memories with these guys who are going to be my friends for the rest of my life."
Smith and senior outfielder's Justin Van De Brake and Collin Montez are three returners who have continuously made an impact for the Cougs. The trio started together in all but nine of WSU's 49 games last season and hit for a 0.294 combined average.
Montez, who has started in 133 of the Cougars last 145 games and in 119 straight, said taking care of his body is key, but also trying to live just one day at a time keeps him mentally prepared.
"I feel my body properly, hydrate, and all that other nutritional stuff," Montez said. "Mentally, it's just taking it day by day, trying to get better every day… the same way the game is played: taking it one pitch at a time."
Although head coach Brian Green and his staff have many messages and motivational pieces they give their players, one that continuously sticks with Montez is to "win your match."
"If we [individually] 'win our match' everyday, then as a whole were all going to 'win our match,'" Montez said. "So that's kind of been the big thing that has stuck with me this year."
Smith is coming off his best year in the crimson and gray with career highs in average, runs, hits, doubles, homeruns, RBIs, and more. He said his decision to say in Pullman over the summer to continue to work on his strength and mobility will hopefully translate into more success in the spring.
"I worked out pretty much every day with our strength coach Monty Mathews," Smith said. "I've really been focused on gaining power, getting a little more explosive on defense, and hopefully my doubles and homerun numbers go up."
Smith said that him and his team's access to their brand-new facility, the Cougar Baseball Complex, has been massive in terms of player development. The new building includes a full locker room, weight and cardio room, academic area, coaches' offices, a nutrition center, and an athletic training room.
"The biggest thing about [the Cougar Baseball Complex] is that we have 24/7 access to work on our game and always get better," Smith said. "You have no excuse not to use the facility and come in here and go in the cage, get your food and nutrition, talk to coaches; it's all right here."
Van De Brake, who played his first two years of collegiate baseball at Tacoma Community College, said that one of the biggest things he appreciates about this team is how much they value culture.
"They preach culture big time every day," Van De Brake said. "That's just as important than what we do baseball wise. When you have that accountability within the team then you can't slack off… and we're all better because of that."
The role of every team veteran comes with taking the new guys under their wing and showing them the ways. Van De Brake said he is proud of how the team has embraced the freshman and transfers, and they continue to see positive results.
"We have a big group of new guys this year… but we have a lot of older guys too and so far we've embraced it together and shared the role, and so far it's going smoothly," Van De Brake said. "The new guys are catching on quickly and practices are getting better every week."
The 2021 baseball team finished with their first winning season since 2015 and the most conference wins since 2014. The Cougars will look to keep moving up in the conference as they hunt for a postseason berth.
"The expectation is to make the postseason," Montez said. "That's the expectation at this point because we have the talent to do it."