Nevada baseball rallies for miracle win

Charles Whisnand

RENO - Maybe it's too much to expect the utterly impossible, the most implausible rally now from the University of Nevada baseball team every time it takes the field.

But for a few minutes in the bottom of the ninth inning on Friday, the reality of Nevada's inconsistent season ceased to exist. Down to its last strike twice, the Wolf Pack rallied for six runs on a pair of three-run home runs - one by Jacob Butler and the other, a game-winning, walk off shot by Bub Madrid - for a 13-12 win over two-time defending NAIA national champion Lewis-Clark State.

Carson High graduate Joe Mercer was Nevada's designated hitter and batted cleanup. He went 1-for-2, belting a solo home run and also walked twice and was hit by a pitch. He's now hitting .333 (10-for-30) with two homers and 11 RBI.

He was also on deck when Madrid hit his game-winning blast. "I knew Bub would come through," Mercer said. "He's been hot all week."

The rally began when Chris Gimenez reached on an error and Erick Streelman walked. Butler followed with a three-run shot that made it 12-10.

But Nevada (10-11) was down to its last strike when Robert Marcial faced an 0-2 count with two strikes. But Marcial fought back to single and Brett Hayes followed with a single.

Madrid was then behind 0-2 when he barely dribbled a curveball that was a bit outside foul off to the right side.

"I saw that he threw it back door," Madrid said. "It was just a little, tiny, tiny aluminum on the ball, which was just enough."

Madrid then took the next pitch over the left center field wall. "It was a good pitch," Madrid said. "It was down and out. "I'm never looking to end it. I was just looking to battle for my life in there."

"I thought the whole inning, I thought we did a good job for the most part of battling with two strikes and extending the inning," Nevada coach Gary Powers said. "Bub did a good job of keeping himself alive on some pretty good pitches.

"I thought it was a great piece of hitting. This team has needed something like this for a long time."

Jose Rodriguez belted the first of his two homers, a two-run shot off of Travis Sutton to give the Warriors (21-4) a 2-0 lead in the second. But Nevada scored four runs in the bottom of the second, with Mercer beginning the rally by taking a fast ball and sending it about 400 feet well over the 380 sign in right centerfield.

Mercer's performance has earned him the nickname "The Mercernator" as he was referred to by one shout from the crowd. "I just waited to see my pitch, saw it and got a chance to drive it," Mercer said.

Gimenez hit an RBI sacrifice line drive to left and Butler and Marcial each hit RBI doubles as Nevada took a 4-2 lead. But Lewis-Clark went up 5-4 in the fourth on an three-run shot by Rodriguez.

Sutton was chased after two singles and a fielder's choice gave Lewis-Clark two runners at second and third with one out in the sixth. Galena High graduate Brandon Evans came in and got a strikeout. But he then allowed a two-run double and an RBI double that made it 8-4.

After Evans allowed a double in the seventh, Chris Scott came in and walked the first batter he faced, throwing two wild pitches to force in a run in the process. Scott went on to allow Tyler Best's two-run homer that made it 11-4.

The Wolf Pack began their comeback in the bottom of the seventh. Madrid reached on an error and Mercer walked. Gimenez singled for the only hit in the inning to load the bases. Streelman walked to force in a run, Butler walked to score Mercer and Tino Psaradelis was hit by a pitch to force in a run that made it 11-7.

Madrid had three hits, Butler had two hits and five RBI, Marcial had two hits and Gabe Mayorga added a hit for Nevada. Scott allowed three runs over 2.2 innings for the win.

Contact Charles Whisnand at chwisnand@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1214.

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