RENO - Nevada's 11-game home winning streak came to an end in wild fashion Thursday night.
There was not one, but two bench-clearing incidents in the eighth inning, which led to the ejection of Fresno State's Ozzie Lewis and Nevada's Konrad Schmidt.
And, despite a three-run homer with two out in the ninth inning by Terry Walsh, the Bulldogs escaped with a 7-6 triumph in the opener of a big three-game series at Peccole Park before a partisan crowd of 814.
"We knew it was going to be a big weekend," FSU coach Mike Batesole said. "Our 12 biggest games are our 12 road games in the WAC. When all is said and done, the team that wins the most on the road will win the conference. It makes the win tonight big and the next two games big."
"Unfortunately, we had one bad inning," Nevada coach Gary Powers said. "We had to scrap from behind the whole game. I thought we had chances to peck away early, and they ended up being non-productive innings. We had some bad at-bats."
According to both Batesole and Powers, both of the ejected players will be able to play in tonight's (6 p.m.) second game.
Batesole and Powers both said on the record they thought the two incidents were handled well by the umpiring crew. Powers said there were no punches thrown in either altercation, just a lot of shoving.
The first incident in the eighth came with Lewis up and Fresno State leading 6-3.
Freshman reliever Mat Keplinger walked Steve Susdorf to start the inning. Lewis grounded to shortstop Greg Siewert for what appeared to be an easy double play. First base umpire Phil Benson called a balk, and wiped out a possible two-out play.
Powers raced onto the field, arguing the call. As he left the field FSU first-base coach Ryan Haag and Powers appeared to exchange words. Powers turned around and started toward Haag. Lewis, the hitter at the time, raced up toward first base to get involved in the altercation. That's when the aforementioned shoving ensued, and both teams were issued warnings.
Lewis lofted a fly ball to right, which was dropped by Matt Suleski. Susdorf stopped at third and Lewis reached second. Tommy Mendonca, who hit two solo homers earlier, singled to center to score Susdorf. Mendonca got into a rundown, and Lewis tried to score.
Lewis came in spikes high. Schmidt took the throw tagged Lewis hard and then got up and said something to Lewis and walked away. Lewis came after Schmidt, and both benches emptied again, and the umpires decided to eject both of the players.
"You should see my leg," Schmidt said. "I've got four gashes. The guy came in so high. I reacted to the pain. I definitely opened my mouth. It was definitely a reaction to the pain. It was a pretty cheap shot. I'm 6-foot tall and his spikes were 2 1/2 feet up my leg. I'm about playing the game hard, but within the rules."
That incident may have fired up Nevada.
FSU closer Brandon Burke hit Jason Sadoian with a pitch to start the ninth, and freshman Shaun Kort singled Sadoian to second. Trevor O'Sullivan popped to center for the second out. Walsh worked the count to 2-2 against Burke, and then launched a homer over the left field fence to make it 7-6. Burke struck out Tyler Jaquez looking to end the game.
Fresno State grabbed a 6-0 lead after three against Nevada ace Ryan Rodriguez, who fanned nine and walked four in his seven-inning stint. The nine strikeouts moved the Nevada ace to 300 career strikeouts, two shy of ex-Carson and Nevada star Darrell Rasner.
Rodriguez gave up a solo homer to Mendonca in the second, and the Bulldogs scored five times in the third with Susdorf driving in two of the runs with a triple. Brian Lapin drove in a run and Mendonca hit a solo homer.
"They hit a couple of good pitches," said Rodriguez, who dropped to 4-5 and saw his ERA rise to a still-respectable 2.81. "The triple, he hit a slider that was down and away. The second (Mendonca) homer, I thought I had him out in front.
"The one ining killed us. I walked those two batters, and you can't do that to start an inning."
FSU starter Clayton Allison kept the Pack off the scoreboard until the fifth when Schmidt doubled and came around to score on an error.
Nevada cut the lead in the seventh to 6-3 when Kort doubled to right driving in two runs, and setting the stage for a wild eighth and ninth inning.