Byler powers Wolf Pack to sweep
March 2, 2013
Austin Byler had a day on Saturday that he’s only dreamed about before.
The sophomore infielder had three hits in the first game of a doubleheader against Holy Cross and then topped it with three home runs in the second game as the Nevada Wolf Pack swept the Holy Cross Crusaders, 8-1 and 12-10, at Peccole Park.
“I’ve never done that before in my life,” said Byler of his three-home run, nine-RBI effort in the second game. “Never. Not once.”
The left-handed Byler was 7-for-8 in the two games with four runs scored and 12 RBI. He came into the day with no home runs and just three RBI in the Pack’s first nine games.
The third baseman got four RBI on one swing in the sixth inning of the second game, drilling a grand slam over the center field fence to give the Pack a 9-7 lead. He then drove an 0-2 pitch over the left field fence in the eighth inning for a three-run shot to give the Pack a 12-10 advantage.
“I was just looking for something to hit,” Byler said with a smile.
Byler, who had four home runs and 22 RBI as a freshman in 2012, is now hitting .436 this season with three homers and 15 RBI.
“The thing I liked best of all was that he used the whole field,” said coach Gary Powers, whose Wolf Pack improved to 7-4 with the doubleheader sweep. “He didn’t just go up there trying to pull the ball. When the pitches were away, he went the other way. He did a real nice job of taking what they were giving him.”
And depositing it over the fence.
“Last night I was just thinking to myself that I had to have good at-bats today,” said Byler, who had gone hitless in his last eight at-bats going into the doubleheader. “I thought I needed to be more aggressive and just take good swings.”
His approach paid off in a day he’ll never forget.
Byler was 3-for-3 in the first game with three RBI in support of starting pitcher Bradey Shipley. Shipley allowed just six hits and a run while striking out seven to improve to 2-0 on the year. The Pack broke the game open with a five-run seventh.
Byler was then 4-for-5 in the second game — three homers and a double — with three runs scored and nine RBI.
His grand slam in the second game capped a six-run Pack uprising. Holy Cross (1-5) had scored six runs in the fourth to take a 6-1 lead on Pack starter Tyler Wells. Byler’s slam came on a full count and cleared the center field fence.
“That was the best one I hit all day,” he said. “I knew that one was gone when I hit it.”
The next time Byler came to the plate, though, the Pack was trailing 10-9 in the eighth.
“Holy Cross is a gritty team,” Powers said. “They battled back after we took the lead. Give them a lot of credit. But give us credit for taking the lead back.”
The credit goes to Byler.
Byler came up in the eighth with runners on first and second. Powers then had him attempt a sacrifice bunt with an 0-1 count and Byler fouled it off.
“I knew what he was trying to do there,” Byler said. “I just tried to get it down but I bunted a bad ball. It was a little high.”
Powers was just trying to put the potential tying and game-winning runs in scoring position.
“We needed to do the right thing in that situation,” Powers said. “This game rewards you when you do that. He did his best. He tried to get it down.”
The result, though, left Byler in an 0-2 hole.
“I just had to step out of the box at that point, catch my breath and focus,” Byler said.
Holy Cross pitcher Andrew Boyce then gave Byler an 0-2 pitch to his liking.
“It was a little away and I just went with it,” he smiled. “Luckily he gave me a pitch I could handle.”
Byler, who drove the ball over the left-center field fence for a 12-10 lead, handled most everything Holy Cross tossed at him on Saturday.
“He got rewarded for trying to do the right thing,” said Powers, referring to the bunt attempt on the pitch before the home run. “Maybe if we don’t do that, he’s a little too aggressive, tries to pull it and grounds out. You never know.”
The three-game series will conclude with a 1p.m. game on Sunday.