RENO -- If it was up to freshman Taylor Pullins, Nevada would change its schedule for next season, the only thing the Wolf Pack can look forward to now. Pullins doesn't want any more games against Sacramento State and San Diego State and Oregon State. Nope, only games against Stanford and other nationally ranked opponents will do.
"Cal-State Fullerton comes in here and we split with them," Pullins said. "We win two out of three against Pepperdine and they were probably the fourth best team we played this season. That's been our problem all year. We play to the level of our competition."
Of course, stooping to Stanford's level was a positive on Tuesday as the Wolf Pack piled up 16 hits and hit four home runs in a 13-12 win over the seventh-ranked Cardinal before 1,275 fans at Peccole Park. The win had a distinctly young flavor to it as Nevada used mostly underclassmen to pull this one out.
Pullins went 3-for-5 with five RBIs and hit his first career home run. Sophomore Mike Hass was 3-for-3 and hit the game-winning home run in the seventh, a two-run shot that scored Tony Cappuccilli. And then there was freshman Bryan Johnson, who replaced another freshman, Ryan Leake, in the seventh inning with the game tied 11-11. All Johnson did was pick up his fifth win of the season, giving up two hits and one run in three innings. This came just over a week from his first start of the season on May 5 against Louisiana Tech, when he didn't record an out.
"I'm hoping they (the younger guys) can look at this and grow from this as a team," said Wolf Pack coach Gary Powers. "I'm happy for the kids. This is testament to them. They could've easily folded it up."
But once the initial excitement of winning a game against Stanford, the highest ranked team Nevada has beaten this season, was over, the what ifs then started.
"That's always nice, to beat one of the best teams in the nation," Hass said. "But it shows that we could've been one of the better teams in the nation."
"I wish we could play like this more often," said Cappuccilli, who went 3-for-4.
Regardless, in a season filled with disappointment, the Wolf Pack soon forgot about what could've been and simply enjoyed beating a team that very well could be playing in their third consecutive College World Series this summer. It didn't come easy, though. But it never does when these two teams meet.
There was only one inning, the fifth, when neither team scored. The Wolf Pack (22-29 overall, 7-17 Western Athletic Conference) took the lead for good in the third inning, following Mike Gillies' two-run homer that made it 8-7. But the Cardinal (35-15) were never far away. In the fourth, Chris O'Riordan scored to make it 9-8 but in the bottom half of the inning, Jeff Tolotti hit a two-run homer to put the Wolf Pack up 11-8.
In the ninth, Stanford put runners on the corners with one out. The Cardinal's Arik VanZandt hit a sac fly to right field to score Scott Dragicevich, then Johnson got O'Riordan to fly out to end the game. Dragicevich and VanZandt both went 3-for-4 to lead the Cardinal.
When the two teams met last season in Reno, they combined for 31 runs in a 18-13 Stanford win, a game that lasted over four hours. The Cardinal also won 8-6 in Palo Alto, Calif.
"I just came in and got the job done," Johnson said. "I wasn't nervous, it's exciting to throw against the No. 7 team in the nation. This was a big win for us."
Nevada opens a three-game homestand on Saturday against Hawai'i starting at 1 p.m.