RENO — Ryan Teel was left hoping and praying. Brooks Klein, at first, didn’t know what to do.
The end result was an improbable Nevada Wolf Pack victory, 7-6, over the Fresno State Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon at Peccole Park.
“I thought the pitch was a bit low and I was just hoping the umpire agreed with me,” said Teel who took a borderline 3-2 pitch for a ball with the bases loaded to force in Klein with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
“I was coming down the line and I just froze,” smiled Klein, whose two-run double earlier in the inning tied the game at 6-6. “I froze for a second or two. I didn’t know what to do.”
He figured it out quickly as the crowd of 754 on Easter weekend erupted on ball four.
“I just sprinted home,“ Klein said.
The day began with an Easter egg hunt for the kids on the field and ended with a victory party up and down the first base line. Klein was mobbed by his teammates at the plate to start the party.
“Then we went to get (Teel),” said Klein, describing the Pack’s impromptu victory celebration that traveled from home plate to first base.
It might have taken Klein a moment or two to figure out what to do on ball four to Teel. It certainly didn’t take him that long to assess the situation as he walked to the plate with two runners on base and the Pack trailing 6-4 with one out in the ninth.
“I was just looking for something over the plate,” said Klein, who flew out deep to left, center and right field earlier in the game.
He didn’t hesitate, ripping the first pitch from Fresno State reliever William Munro to the gap in right center field to score Scott Kaplan and Austin Byler with the tying runs.
“You can’t go up there timid in that situation,” said Klein, who now has 22 RBIs this season.
“He was rewarded on that one,” Pack coach Gary Powers said. “Earlier in the game he just crushed a ball that was caught. If the wind wasn’t blowing in that would have been out of the park. He deserved that last one.”
The victory gave the Wolf Pack a much-needed three-game series victory over the Bulldogs. The two teams split the first two games of the series with the Pack winning 5-3 on Thursday and Fresno State returning the favor on Friday, 4-0. The Pack is now 17-11 overall and 5-4 in the Mountain West and Fresno, struggling badly this year, fell to 6-18, 2-5.
“The thing I liked best was that we got down four (6-2 heading into the eighth inning) and didn’t cave in,” Powers said. “We found a way to score five runs to win the game. This team kept going, kept going, kept going and that was good to see.”
After Klein evened the game at 6-6, the Pack actually pushed the senior right fielder across the plate with the winning run without actually hitting the ball. Munro intentionally walked Tommy Niebergall with two outs and then hit Lance Berringer with a pitch to load the bases, setting the stage for Teel.
“I probably should have been more aggressive in that situation,” Teel said. “I should have been looking middle in for something. I probably should have taken a swing at that last one but I thought it was a little low. Luckily the umpire thought so, too.”
Teel, who now has 12 RBI this year, ended up walking in his last two at-bats on Saturday after walking just once all season.
“It came down to that last pitch but the pitch he did the best job on was the one right before when he took one down in the dirt for ball three,” Powers said. “That was huge.”
The Wolf Pack found itself down 6-2 entering the eighth as Fresno State scored six times in the sixth inning off Pack starter Tom Jameson,. Jameson allowed eight hits and six runs in his 5.2 innings. He struck out four and didn’t walk a hitter while throwing 112 pitches.
The 6-foot-7 senior, though, carried a 2-0 lead into the sixth, having allowed just three hits.
“He pitched well today,” Powers said. “He‘s coming along. He had far better command today. He threw his off-speed stuff for strikes and threw the ball with a downward plane. He’s coming.”
The Wolf Pack cut Fresno’s lead to 6-4 with a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth. The inning started as Kaplan was hit by a pitch and Austin Byler drew a walk. Hugo Hernandez drove in Kaplan with a key two-strike single and Byler scored as Berringer rolled into a force out at second.
The Pack had earlier taken a 2-0 lead with a run in the third and fourth innings. Jamison Rowe singled up the middle to score Berringer in the third and Niebergall doubled home Byler in the fourth. Byler, who was 2-for-4 with three runs scored, had also doubled to start the fourth.
The bullpen also played a big role in the victory. Michael Bradshaw (2.1 innings) and Sean Prihar (one innings) combined to toss 3.1 scoreless innings to keep the game close.
“The bullpen came in and held them so we could come back,” Teel said.
“They kept us in the game,” Powers said.
It was a game the Pack needed to win. The Wolf Pack is now tied at 5-4 in Mountain West play with San Diego State, a game behind conference leader New Mexico (6-3). UNLV is close behind at 4-4 followed by Air Force (2-4) and Fresno State (2-5).
“We can’t let New Mexico get too far out in front of us,” Teel said.
“This was huge for us,” Klein said, “especially at home.”