RENO - Nevada baseball coach Gary Powers admits he's concerned about his bullpen, and he should be.
Two Nevada relievers - Kody Keroher and Jacob Kaup - faced seven Fresno State batters combined and failed to get an out in the seventh inning, allowing five runs and four hits.
That enabled the Bulldogs to wipe out a 4-3 deficit with six seventh-inning runs, and they went on to post a 10-4 win over Nevada in the series finale Saturday afternoon before 1,091 fans at Peccole Park.
The loss dropped Nevada to 4-5 in conference play and 20-17 overall. Fresno State improved to 6-3 in conference, and is tied with Louisiana Tech for first place.
"I'm concerned with certain individuals (in the bullpen)," said a disappointed Powers after his squad lost a series it probably should have won. "It's not just a one-time thing with these guys. I get concerned anytime we're on the wrong side of consistency; not getting the job done more than getting the job done.
"He (starter Kyle Howe) got us to the seventh inning. I thought we'd be able to get through two innings and get to the closer (Mario Rivera) in the ninth. What did they get, seven, eight or nine straight guys on base in a row? It happened so fast, it was hard to get guys warmed up quick enough. They scored six runs so fast it was ridiculous. The bullpen didn't get the job done."
Howe was lifted after giving up a lead-off homer to Tommy Mendonca in the seventh, cutting Nevada's lead to 4-3.
Keroher gave up a walk, single and a two-run double to Todd Sandell, who went 3-for-5 with three RBI. Kaup came on and walked Erik Wetzel, allowed a run-scoring double by Loren Storey and a two-run single by Brian Lapin to make it 8-4. Steve Susdorf reached on an error, and Kaup left in favor of Matt Renfree, who worked his way out of further trouble.
For Keroher, the WAC season has been an absolute struggle. In 1 2/3 innings over four appearances, he has allowed eight runs and nine hits. Kaup, who has appeared in three conference contests, has given up six runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. Both have pitched pretty well in nonconference games, but have been ineffective in conference play.
Renfree himself ran into trouble in the eighth, allowing three consecutive doubles, as Fresno State increased its lead to 10-4.
It certainly was easy to see Powers' thinking. Howe may have had some steam left, but the veteran coach wanted Howe to leave on a positive note and with a lead.
Save for the two solo homers, Howe pitched a solid game. After allowing a run in the first, he threw five shutout innings until Mendonca's homer in the seventh.
"I left a couple of sliders up," Howe said. "That was it. You leave a couple of pitches up like that, and you are going to get hurt."
Howe said he though he had enough to finish the inning, and after yesterday's bullpen performance, he might get that chance. He allowed three runs and seven hits in his six innings of work.
The big inning seemed to take the life out of the Pack. Nevada bounced back on Thursday after the two bench-clearing incidents and pulled to within a run on a Terry Walsh three-run homer in the ninth, but went down meekly in this one.
Holden Sprague came on to pitch for the Bulldogs, and he allowed just one hit over the final three innings and caught both David Ciarlo and Baker Krukow looking at third strikes. It was the only time Krukow would make an out all day, as he reached base four times - two walks and two hits.
"It's pretty disappointing," Krukow said. "Obviously we had a good vibe going. We were hitting their pitching well. We had one bad inning the whole game.
"He (Sprague) did a nice job, but we still had opportunities and they all went for naught. We're not worried about the standings until it gets down to the nitty-gritty. We have to get ready for Tuesday."
Nevada stranded 10 runners, leaving at least a runner in scoring position in the first, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
With about three weeks left in the season, Nevada is only two games out of the lead. This is one wide-open conference, and whoever can go on an extended winning streak will win it.
"We're still in great position," Powers said. "Had we not won Friday, we would have put ourselves in a bad spot. We have tough games in front of us. Our fate is in our own hands."
Notes: Catcher Konrad Schmidt enjoyed his team-leading 13th multi-hit game of the season, while Krukow and Walsh now have seven apiece ... Schmidt also has a seven-game hitting streak ... Jason Rodriguez made several diving stops at third base, including two in the ninth ... Nevada returns to action Tuesday at 2 p.m. against Stanford, which is off to an 0-6 start in Pac-10 play.