During the seventh inning stretch of last Saturday’s game against the Oregon Ducks, WSU outfielder Adam Nelubowich calmly stood in the on-deck circle preparing for his second at bat in the game.
However, before he practiced his swings or stood up to the batter’s box at Bailey-Brayton Field, Nelubowich grew up playing hockey in Stony Plain, Canada.
“Baseball was just something I got into,” Nelubowich said. “I saw some chances to do some cool things, and so I stuck with it.”
Nelubowich received the Pac-12 Conference Tom Hansen Conference Medal on Friday for the greatest combination of performance and achievement in athletics, scholarship and leadership.
Nelubowich is batting .308 this season for the Cougars and has contributed 52 hits during the season, along with 12 doubles and 29 RBI.
Last season, Nelubowich batted .254 and had 11 multi-hit games, including a 13-game hit streak which lasted from March 4-26.
It is easy to see how Nelubowich changes the game on the field, said Jason Monda, a junior. He can hit for power or throw out players from the outfield with his accurate arm, Monda said.
“He has an open mind for everything,” Monda said. “I saw him play in the Cape Cod League over the summer and I thought he performed really well.”
Nelubowich played in the outfield and at third base this season, and has tried to stay consistent with his hitting approach, he said.
Despite starting in all 43 games, Nelubowich was fortunate to avoid injuries this season, he said.
“I just wanted to play every day and give us a chance to play in the postseason,” he said.
Nelubowich works on all facets of his game and has made the biggest strides on defense in clutch moments this season, said Collin Slaybaugh, a junior.
In addition, Nelubowich was surprisingly collected after he was redshirted his freshman year, Slaybaugh said.
“He is an advantage to have out there on the field,” Slaybaugh said. “He takes every drill seriously and he has really improved at bunting the ball.”
After four years at WSU, he has not changed much physically, Nelubowich said, but he tries to stay mentally confident even when he knows he will not make it to home base 70 percent of the time.
Nelubowich said he took on a new leadership role due to many new players on the team. He is learning more about himself each year, he said.
"In four years you do learn a lot, so it's kind of selfish if you don't pass it on," Nelubowich said.
With 11 games left in the year, Nelubowich said he hopes the team will make postseason.
The team has to go on a streak, but players need to stay optimistic, Nelubowich said.
"There are still opportunities for the team to win a series," he said. “We are just trying to not beat ourselves. That’s been our biggest struggle this year.”