RENO - You would think after losing 11 of the last 12 meetings to Rice that Nevada is happy to see the Owls leave the Western Athletic Conference at the end of the year.
Not so said Nevada coach Gary Powers.
"They bring so much to the conference," Powers said after Sunday's 12-3 loss at Peccole Park. "They get national recognition. When the winner of the College World Series comes from your conference, it's nothing but a plus.
"Right now, they are playing like you want to have a team playing at this time of the year. We tried to compete; tried to get back in this game. We have to be realistic about what we are capable of doing. We didn't pitch well enough and didn't hit well enough to compete."
Indeed. It was the third time the Owls have swept a series from the Pack in the last two years. This series was especially tough to take because the Pack (22-25, 11-13) now trails Rice (36-15, 16-8) by five games with six left and has zero chance to win the conference.
"They're a good team," Pack catcher Brett Hayes said. "It's kind of frustrating as a whole. We hammer Louisiana Tech (who played Rice tough three times this year) and we get hammered by Rice. It doesn't make sense. I don't know if I want to call it baseball."
It leaves the Pack playing for pride in the final two weeks against San Jose State (away) and Fresno State (home). Powers said he doesn't plan to turn the final six games over to the youngsters, either.
"The seniors have earned the right to play," Powers said. "I am going to play the nine guys I feel give me the best chance to win. Our goal is to win as many of these games as we can; to play as hard as we can.
"I want the seniors to push hard, and everybody else is playing for an opportunity to play in the future. It's important to the returning players in terms of their future. We may have some big shoes to fill next season. We're looking for guys that can step up and fill those spots."
Nevada will lose center fielder Jacob Butler, second baseman Carlos Madrid and third baseman Eric Newman to graduation. Hayes, shortstop Robert Marcial, first baseman Ben Mummy and right fielder Shawn Scobee have the potential to be drafted.
Mummy gave Nevada its only lead of the game when he slammed a Joe Savery (7-4) fastball over the fence in left-centerfield for a solo homer.
The lead didn't last long - four batters to be exact. Travis Sutton, who had sailed through two scoreless innings, was pounded for nine runs and eight hits in the third inning. Rice sent 14 hitters to the plate. Sutton left after yielding a grandslam to Lance Pendleton to make it 9-2.
"He couldn't locate," Powers said. "He got behind a lot. He really couldn't throw his change-up for strikes. When they knew he didn't have his change-up, they could sit on his fastball, and that's what they are geared to do."
Rice pounded 16 hits, and each starter scored at least one run and collected at least one hit. Leadoff batter Tyler Henley went 3 for 4, and Adam Rodgers and Josh Rodriguez each hit safely twice and drove in two runs.
The third-inning barrage was more than enough for Savery, who allowed five hots over eight innings. He allowed only one hit from the fourth through the eighth inning. Cole St. Clair blanked the Pack in the ninth.
n Darrell Moody can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281.