WazzuWatch – 2021 BSB Preview: Infield


Washington State opens the 2021 college baseball season Friday afternoon at UC Davis in the first of a four-game series. The two teams are scheduled to play a doubleheader Saturday and a single game Sunday.

WSU’s starting infield lineup is fairly established with the exception of second base, and it features a new shortstop.

“Our returning players have been outstanding,” WSU head coach Brian Green said recently. “Then you bring in a top 30 recruiting class with the expectation that many will be on the field. When we open up, you’re probably going to see a heavy dose of returning players.”

Here is how the Cougars infield shapes up heading into the opener:

FIRST BASE: If somebody could accurately be described as the face of the WSU program, that guy would be junior Kyle Manzardo (Coeur d’Alene, ID), who made a heckuva impression in 16 games last spring. He finished a shorted 2020 season with a .435 batting average with seven doubles, three home runs, 14 RBI, a .500 on-base percentage and a Pac-12 best 27 hits. He tied for the league lead in doubles, was second in batting average and was fourth in slugging (.694) and runs scored (21).

Now he’s harvesting the fruits of his labors. Manzardo has been named to the preseason All-America teams by the Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and Collegiate Baseball newspaper. He is the first WSU player to earn preseason All-American honors since pitcher Ian Hamilton in 2016.

“He came here with lofty expectations from the previous coaching staff,” WSU head coach Brian Green said recently during a video conference with reporters. “He was an All-American last season and now a preseason All-American this year. He has the right mentality to be a great baseball player.

“He is committed to being great. He doesn’t care about the accolades. He’ll stay at the ballpark and hit all day. He is committed to his craft. He’s made huge strides the past few weeks just in terms of his rhythm and his mechanics. He is handling everything great. His work habits are professional.”

New Mexico State graduate transfer Tristan Peterson is also available to play first base, but with Manzardo around he’ll likely be utilized mostly at DH, catcher or the outfield. Wherever he plays, Green said he will find a way for both Peterson and Manzardo to be in the lineup every day, perhaps as the 3-4 hitters in the batting order.

“Peterson came here as a first basemen, and he’ll still be that along with DH,” Green said. “He can play a little left field too. He went to Kansas State as a catcher, and we’ve brought him here to get some reps there. Everybody in America wanted him as a graduate transfer. We were looking for a power righthanded hitter. Both Peterson and Manzardo grind at first base. But both of them will be in the lineup every day and we’ll keep both of them happy.”

SECOND BASE: Plenty of competition here. Highly touted 6-foot-2, 195-pound freshman infielder Kyle Russell (University Place, WA) didn’t come to WSU to sit on the bench, and he became a potential middle infield starter the moment he stepped on campus.

Russell was named the No. 1 high school prospect in the state of Washington by Baseball America. As a junior in 2019 (the 2020 HS baseball season was cancelled due to COVID-19), Russell was named South Puget Sound League MVP after hitting .450 with four doubles, six homers, 30 RBI and striking out just twice.

He’ll compete with senior Garrett Gouldsmith (transfer from New Mexico two years ago), his younger brother freshman Gunner Gouldsmith (rated No. 1 SS in Nevada by Prep Baseball Report) and sophomore Preston Clifford (33 AB in 2020) for the starting 2B job.

“We’ll go into the opening weekend looking to play a few guys (at second base),” Green said. “Clifford had a great fall. Russell has had a great spring. We’ll rotate and platoon there over the first four games and probably the first couple of weekends. We’ll see if somebody establishes himself by the time we get to conference play. We have some depth and all the guys are competing.”

SHORTSTOP: Junior Koldie Kolden (Post Falls, ID) is arguably WSU’s best defensive infielder and he has solidified his status as the starter at shortstop. Last season he batted .256 with a triple and 6 RBI in 13 games.

His backup will come from the group that includes Russell, both Gouldsmith brothers and Clifford.

“Solidifying the middle infield is a priority along with catcher,” Green said. “Kolden has done such a good job at shortstop. His game is better.”

THIRD BASE: Senior Jack Smith (Mercer Island, WA) has the hot corner locked down after batting .308 with 1 HR and 11 RBI in 2020. He started 14 of the 16 games at third base.

“Jack has locked it down,” Green said. “He’s done a great job offensively and defensively. He’s a great story. He has a great personality. He has really changed his mentality of what he can do on the baseball field. He has completely changed his body. Jack will be our third baseman. He will have to fail to be moved out of that position.”


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