The Nevada Wolf Pack baseball season is now in intensive care.
The Wolf Pack lost a game on Sunday at Peccole Park, 15-11 to the New Mexico Lobos, that even left their coach speechless.
“Our bullpen performance, I can’t even make a comment on that,” Pack coach Gary Powers said after watching four of his relievers allow eight runs in the top of the ninth inning to squander a 10-7 lead. The Wolf Pack also wasted leads of 6-0 after five innings, 8-1 after six innings and 10-6 after seven innings.
“We self-destructed right there,” Powers said.
The Wolf Pack season is also self-destructing at the moment. The loss on Sunday was the Pack’s fourth in a row and 10th in the last 12 games. With 12 games remaining in the Mountain West season, the Pack is 19-20 overall and in fifth place in the six-team Mountain West at 7-11. New Mexico is 24-16 and in first place in the conference at 14-4.
“Unfortunately, right now when we make a mistake, it quickly snowballs into five or six runs,” Powers said.
The Pack, which has lost 5-of-6 games to New Mexico this season, had a chance to pull within a game of the Lobos with a series sweep this weekend at Peccole Park. Now, instead, they are all but eliminated from the regular season title chase, down seven games with 12 to play.
“We have to move forward from this,” Powers said. “We have no choice.”
The Wolf Pack scored just two runs in each of the first two games of the series in losing 5-2 and 7-2. Offense, though, wasn’t a problem on Sunday as the Pack raced to a 6-0 lead.
Ryan Teel doubled in a run in the second inning for a 1-0 lead. The Pack then scored four runs in the second inning to take a commanding 5-0 lead. The second-inning runs came home on an Austin Byler RBI single, a Brooks Klein sacrifice fly and a two-run, 400-foot home run to right-center field by Brett Jones.
A run-scoring single by third baseman Ray McIntire, making just his second start of the season, gave the Pack a 6-0 lead in the fourth inning.
“We were cruising along with a 6-0 lead,” Powers said. “I thought our demeanor was good. I thought we played hard. We were playing well.”
New Mexico, the Mountain West’s top-hitting team entering Sunday’s game with a .323 team batting average, scored a run in the sixth but the Pack answered immediately with two runs in the bottom of the inning for an 8-1 lead. Scott Kaplan walked with the bases loaded to force in a run and McIntire brought home the second run of the inning by bouncing into a force out at second.
“Our offense did what it needed to do,” Powers said. “We scored enough runs to win this game.”
Wolf Pack starter Tom Jameson turned in one of his best outings of the season. The 6-foot-7 senior right-hander had a two-hit shutout through five innings. The Lobos, though, scored five runs off Jameson in the seventh inning but all five runs were unearned thanks to a two-out error by McIntire at third.
“We turned a couple ground balls into a circus,” Powers said.
Jameson, who didn’t get the decision and remains 1-6 on the season, allowed three consecutive singles after McIntire’s error.
“We just haven’t been able to pitch through problems lately,” Powers said.
Powers then brought in sophomore Colby Blueberg to face D.J. Peterson, the Mountain West’s top hitter at .400. Peterson promptly laced a two-run double to cut the Pack lead to just 8-6.
“We just never made a pitch when we needed it,” Powers said.
The worst, however, was yet to come.
The Wolf Pack answered New Mexico’s five-run seventh inning with two runs of its own in the bottom of the seventh. Teel and Kyle Hunt each had sacrifice flies in the inning as the Pack upped its lead to 10-6. The Wolf Pack had a right to feel confident at that point. The Pack, after all, was 6-0 when scoring 10 or more runs this season and had not lost a game when scoring 10 or more runs since an 11-10 loss at San Jose State on May 21, 2011. The last time it happened at Peccole Park was May 8, 2009 in a 14-13 loss to Sacramento State.
A solo home run by the Lobos’ Luke Campbell in the eighth, though, cut the Pack lead to 10-7, setting the stage for the ninth inning.
The Lobos simply toyed with the Pack bullpen in the ninth, collecting seven hits in the eight-run inning off four Pack pitchers. Closer Michael Fain allowed three hits and a walk and four runs, Daniel Levine threw just one pitch and gave up a double and a run, Barry Timko gave up two hits and two runs and Michael Bradshaw allowed a hit, a walk and a run.
The Lobos hit five doubles in the inning, by Peterson, John Pustay, Alex Real, Campbell and Chase Harris. Peterson’s double brought home two runs and Harris’ double scored three runs.
“Blame me for pitching to Peterson (in the seventh and ninth innings),” Powers said. “Looking back I should have just intentionally walked him no matter what the situation was. But that’s hindsight. It turned out it didn’t matter because we didn’t get the guys after him either.”
The half inning lasted 38 minutes and the four Pack pitchers tossed 48 pitches. The ninth-inning meltdown was reminiscent of this past March 22 when the Pack traveled to Albuquerque to face New Mexico for the first time this season. In that game the Lobos scored six runs on five hits in the bottom of the ninth to stun the Pack 9-8.
“I wish I could tell you what we’re going to get from (the bullpen) from one day to the next but I can’t,” Powers said. “All you can do is hope that they will learn from their mistakes and grow from them.”
The Wolf Pack will host Pacific in a non-conference game Tuesday night (6 p.m.) at Peccole Park before heading to Colorado Springs for a three-game Mountain West series at Air Force starting on Friday.
“We need to straighten this out by the time we get to the conference tournament (May 22-26),” Powers said. “We need to find some consistency.”