RENO - Same old Nevada.
Perennial powerhouse Rice continued its domination of Nevada, knocking off the Wolf Pack 9-3 Friday at Peccole Park in the opening game of their Western Athletic Conference series.
The win was Rice's ninth win in the last 10 games over the Pack. In that span, Rice has outscored Nevada 120-27. The victory also boosted Rice's lead (14-8) to three games over Nevada (11-11) with eight games left on the schedule.
This was an especially tough loss, because Nevada entered the game knowing it had to take at least two against the defending champs to stay in the hunt. And, after losing the series opener, can the Pack put the loss, which featured the fourth-inning ejections of second baseman Bub Madrid, shortstop Robert Marcial and coach Gary Powers behind them and just focus on winning today's game?
Powers said that might be a tough task. He said it's common for players to think ahead and sometimes not to think about the task at hand. He said the Pack aren't talented enough to think in the future, and at 22-23, that's a valid point.
Nevada started fast against Rice starter Josh Geer, but left the bases loaded in the second and never recovered.
And, in a span of moments in the top of the fourth inning, Nevada lost the three aforementioned people, and the game went spiraling downhill from there.
Trailing just 3-2 in the top of the fourth, Danny Lehman led off the fourth with a double that just eluded the grasp of a diving Matt Bowman in left field. Lance Pendleton followed with a single between third and short, sending Lehman to third.
Nevada starter Tim Schoeninger quickly got ahead of Clay Reichenbach. However, Schoeninger was called for a balk by third base umpire Steve Mattingly, scoring Lehman and sending Pendleton to second. Reichenbach blooped a single to center, moving Pendleton to third. Tyler Henley, who led off the game with a homer, followed with a sacrifice fly to center plating Pendleton to make it 5-2.
That's when all the fun started. Schoeninger was again called for a balk by Mattingly. Madrid said something, and first base umpire Phil Benson whirled around and tossed him. Marcial had to be restrained, and he was tossed moments later. That brought out Powers, who went nose-to-nose with plate umpire Ken Eldridge and was eventually sent to the showers.
"Things happened so fast," Powers said. "It was out of control. It's not worth talking about. They beat us 9-3. They did what they needed to do."
Powers indicated that the umpire told him that Schoeninger was not gaining ground with his pickoff move to first. The front foot has to gain ground toward where the pitcher is throwing the ball.
Schoeninger said it's the same move he's used all year. The hard-throwing right-hander had only been called for a balk once all year.
"Everything went downhill for us (after that)," said Schoeninger, who dropped to 5-7. "Things like that happen in baseball."
Schoeninger allowed another homer, a solo shot by Pendleton that made it 6-2, before departing.
By that time, Geer had the game well in control. From the third through the sixth, Geer retired 11 of 14 batters, and only Jacob Butler's deep fly to center was hit real hard.
"Josh had good stuff," Rice coach Wayne Graham said. "He's a quality pitcher. He made a couple of mistakes early."
Of Nevada's six hits off Geer, two each came from Bowman, who raised his average several points with his 2-for-4 effort, and Hayes. The latter sliced a triple in the seventh to drive in Nevada's last run.
Notes: The Pack got a nice 1 1/3 innings of relief from Matt Renfree, who struck out two batters looking in the top of the seventh. He allowed a run in the eighth ... Butler was picked off at first to end the third inning. He was so steamed at Benson's call that he flung his helmet several feet in the hair ... Nevada's only lead came in the second when Shawn Scobee hit his 15th homer of the year, tying him for seventh on the Pack's single-season list.