Nevada baseball coach Gary Powers readily admits he has mixed emotions about his 2004 team that posted a 30-29 record.
"I know we faced a lot of adverse situations, but I don't like to make excuses," he said earlier this week. "I always hope we would have won more games.
"I know we had some tough breaks; some tough things to overcome. I just wish we could have done better. Under the circumstances, I thought we played hard all season."
Most of the problems stemmed from injuries and lack of quality pitching. Weekend starters J.T. Sherman, Eddie Bonine and Mateo Miramontes all graduated or turned pro as did closer Zach Basch.
And, to make matters worse, Troy Grimmer, counted on to be a weekend starter this year, missed the whole season because of Tommy John surgery, and his Wolf Pack career is likely over. Ex-Carson star Owen Brolsma also injured his elbow midway through the season, and also underwent Tommy John surgery. Brolsma isn't expected to play next season.
"Owen I thought was coming on real strong," said Powers of his workhorse freshman reliever. "We lost Adam Colton toward the end of the season. He had filled in well as our No. 2 starter."
Powers praised the eforts of sophomore Travis Sutton (8-5, 5.43) and freshman Ryan Rodriguez (5-7, 6.09), both of whom turned in fine performances during the season.
"I thought they both pitched well under the circumstances," Powers said. "He (Sutton) went from being the No. 3 starter to being the No.1 starter. I thought he performed well. He needs to get stronger and be much more durable."
Powers said help for his inexperienced pitching staff is on the way. He signed five pitchers for the coming season - lefties Jared Mitchell from Washington and Chris Rickey from Reno High, reliever Wesley Dorsett, Ryan Grieves and Steve Taylor.
"We need some help from new players," Powers said. "Our returning players need to step up and perform better. We have to get them all more consistent and stronger. Hopefully two or three of the new guys will step in right away."
Powers is hoping Dorsett can be the true closer that the Wolf Pack lacked last year. The Nevada coach said that Dorsett is a sinker, slider type of pitcher.
The Nevada coach will have to replace two-thirds of his outfield, as Brian Gazzero graduated and Chris Gimenez was expected to sign with the Cleveland Indians. The only holdover will be power-hitting Jacob Butler, who slammed 16 homers last year.
Powers was prepared, however. He actually thought he would lose his entire outfield. He'll fill the two slots from returnees Austin Graham (.258), Tino Psaradelis (.200) and Derek McNeil (.219) or newcomers Drew Johnson of Reno, Michael Vass, Jessie Oliver and Carson's Aaron Henry. Powers said all the newcomers have experience in centerfield.
"We have very good depth," Powers said. "McNeil is back, and if we lose Brian and Chris, a couple of those guys are going to have to step up."
Much will depend on how the newcomers adjust to the rigors of college baseball and to college in general. Powers points out that there is a drastic difference between high school and college ball, and that's something high schoolers learn quickly.
The Wolf Pack will be solid in the infield, losing just third baseman Joe Mercer of Carson. Ben Mummy (.367), who broke his wrist late in the year, will be back at first. Bub Madrid (.250) returns at second and Robert Marcial (.298) is back at short. Reserve Eric Newman (.235), who can play either of the middle infield slots, also returns.
Powers is bringing in freshmen Davis Ciarlo from Seattle, Wash., Nate Cordray from Sherman Oaks, Calif. and most likely Dayton's Matt Bowman.
"All are young kids that have the potential to pressure (on the older players)," Powers said.
The Pack returns its top two catchers - Brett Hayes (.337) and Baker Krukow (.307). Hayes and Butler have been selected to play in the prestigious Cape Cod League this summer.
And while we're on the subject of Nevada, let's talk about the inclusion of Idaho in the Western Athletic Conference starting in 2005. The additon of the Vandals will give the conference nine teams since SMU, Rice, UTEP and Tulsa are leaving the WAC for Conference USA after next season. Idaho, Utah and New Mexico State are the new programs coming in.
Idaho will be a good representative, and the fact that it's in the same time zone, doesn't hurt either.
What I'd like to see is the WAC look for schools that also play baseball. Because of that, I wouldn't have minded to see Louisiana-Monroe join the WAC. Yes it is a long trip, but if you play two schools back there, it cuts down on travel somewhat. If Louisiana-Monroe isn't an option, hopefully UC Davis will be.
Former Nevada lineman John Thomas, now a member of the Area League's Chicago Rush, will be in action Saturday against the San Jose SaberCats today at noon.
Thomas, a rookie, recorded five tackles and one sack this year. He had 49 tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles in 2001, his last year with the Wolf Pack.
Darrell Moody can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281.