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March 21, 2013
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Power propels Pack softball

The whistling sound humming from Hixson Park is not from the howl of the Nevada softball team.

Instead, the sound wailing from the diamond is courtesy of an aerial bombardment Wolf Pack hitters have put on opposing pitchers this season. Last weekend, Nevada plastered Northern Colorado and the University of Texas-San Antonio to the tune of eight homers as the Pack swept the four-game series.

“Finally things are clicking,” junior Sara Parsons said. “Things are going our way.”

Perhaps the most impressive long ball came when Lauren Lastrapes destroyed a pitch against Northern Colorado into the trees, about 50 feet behind the left field fence, for a walk-off homer.

Parsons, a 2010 Fallon grad, has had her share of long-ball success as she recently tied the Nevada record for most grand slams (two) in a season.

“It’s nice,” Parsons said of the power surge. “When everyone up and down the lineup hits the ball like that, it takes a lot of pressure off you.”

The offensive explosion has keyed a seven-game winning streak for Nevada coming into the Wolf Pack Classic on Saturday and Sunday at Hixson Park. Visiting Reno are Idaho State (9-14) and Santa Clara (3-20).

Nevada plays at 12:30 p.m. Saturday against Santa Clara and at 3 p.m. against Idaho State. On Sunday, the Pack plays at 12:30 p.m. against Idaho State and at 3 p.m. against Santa Clara.

Idaho State, however, has beaten the Pack twice this season — 5-4 on Feb. 8 and 9-6 on Feb. 15.

“The big thing for us is not to get on that roller-coaster,” Nevada coach Matt Meuchel said. “If we can do that, I think we can pick up another four games.”

Nevada (17-12) has hit 30 homers to date lead by Ashley Butera and Megan Fincher, who each have six. Freshman Megan Sweet is second with five followed by Parsons and Lastrapes with four. Even leadoff hitter Erin Jones has belted three dingers.

Just as impressive, Nevada features seven hitters who are above .300. Jones leads the way with a gaudy .398 average followed by Karley Hopkins (.390), Jasmine Jenkins (.348), Parsons and Sweet (.341), Butera (.333) and Fincher (.305).

The Pack leads the Mountain West Conference with a .319 team batting average, slugging percentage (.497), on-base percentage (.410), runs scored (178), RBIs (166), doubles (53) and home runs (29).

“They feed off each other,” Meuchel said. “They have that confidence that someone around them is going to pick up the slack, and then the next time they come up they can execute and do your job.”

The difference the past two weeks for Nevada, though, has been its pitching staff. Inconsistent early in the season, the Pack struggled to put a winning streak together.

In fact, Nevada’s longest streak prior was consecutive wins over Portland State and No. 20 Hawaii on Feb. 16 and 17.

The team’s mindset, though, has benefited their performance the past two weeks, Meuchel said.

“I think it’s just not getting on the roller coaster of highs and lows,” he said. “I think they’ve tried to focus on being steady, and if we can do that then at some point we know our approach will stay consistent. If our approach can stay consistent then we can string some games and that’s what we’re in the middle of now for sure with that seven-game streak we’re on.”

Karlyn Jones has been the Pack’s best and most reliable pitcher so far as she has compiled an 11-4 record, 3.04 ERA with 89 strikeouts to only 19 walks in 92 innings. Coming on of late, though, has been former Bishop Manogue standout and Northern Illinois transfer Megan Dortch, who is 4-6 with a 5.39 ERA in 11 appearances.

During the streak, Pack pitchers have allowed 11 runs, while the offense has piled up 54 runs including three wins with at least 10 runs.

Meuchel said the staff’s recent success is due to a more relaxed state of mind in the circle. In addition, with such a potent offense, each shutout inning brings more confidence to the hurlers, which in turn, leads the offense to pick up Jones and Dortch.

“I think the one thing the pitching has done lately that has been good is to hold our opponents down until we score,” Meuchel said. “Early in the season that wasn’t the case. We were giving up runs in the first (inning) and having to fight from behind.”

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Mar 10, 2014 10:44PM Published Mar 22, 2013 11:41AM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.