RENO - Shaun Kort keeps telling anybody who will listen that he's not a home run hitter. Nobody is buying that, however.
Kort, Nevada's freshman phenom, hit three homers in his last three at-bats to drive in four runs and spark the Wolf Pack to a thrilling 8-7 come-from-behind victory over San Jose State Saturday night at Peccole Park.
The last Wolf Pack player to hit three homers in a game was Shawn Scobee against the University of Portland on March 10 last year in a 9-2 win. Kort now has five homers, second-best on the team.
Most of the post-game talk centered around Kort's power surge, but it was actually a two-run homer by David Ciarlo in the eighth that turned out to be the game-winning hit and a great throw by catcher Konrad Schmidt in the ninth that sealed the victory.
The win gives Nevada (22-18, 6-5) a chance for a series sweep today at 1. The Pack now trails conference leader Louisiana Tech by 1 1/2 games.
Nevada coach Gary Powers has been at Nevada for 25 years, and he can't remember a left-handed hitter ever hitting three homers in a game - not even the great Lyle Overbay.
"It was unbelievable," Powers said. "Guys get that way when they are seeing the ball well. He's done a nice job from start to finish for us."
Kort said he never hit three homers in a game, and there was no doubt on any of his longballs. His first homer trimmed SJSU's lead to 2-1, and his second round-tripper cut San Jose's lead to 4-3.
"I'm still not a home run hitter," Kort said after doing a radio interview. "I was looking to drive it somewhere. The wind was blowing to right (tonight)."
Kort's third homer, a two-run shot off SJSU reliever Loren Moneypenny, gave Nevada a 6-5 lead in the seventh, and Ciarlo added a two-run shot off Moneypenny in the eighth to make it 8-5.
"We actually tried to pitch around him (Kort) the last time," SJSU coach Sam Piraro said. "Obviously we didn't execute the pitch."
It's the second time in the last three games against the Spartans that Nevada has hit four homers in a game. The last time was a 15-1 win over SJSU at last year's WAC Tournament opener, and Moneypenny was the losing pitcher in that one, too.
That lead probably should have been safe, but the Spartans wouldn't quit.
Karson Klauer opened the ninth with a double off Nevada closer Mario Rivera, and Dylan Bruck walked. After pinch-hitter Greg Fyfe popped to short, pinch-hitter Brian Chase slammed a single to left, scoring John Shaffer, who ran for Klauer. Brett Hasegawa came in to run for Chase.
With Marcus McKimmy at the plate, Rivera threw a wild pitch to the screen. The ball hit the bottom of the cement wall on the fly and bounced straight back to Schmidt, who alertly fired a strike to second baseman David Ciarlo to retire Hasegawa for the second out.
"There was a mix-up," Rivera said. "We have a system. I messed up. I threw a fastball instead of a curveball."
"Originally, I didn't think we could (get the runner at second)," Ciarlo said. "Konrad reacted really well. That was a huge play."
Bruck moved to third on the play and scored on McKimmy's slow roller between first and second. McKimmy barely beat the throw to first. Ryan Angel singled and Donato Giovannato was hit by a pitch on a full count to load the bases. On a 2-1 pitch, Kyle Bellows smacked a line drive to right field, but right at Nick Sansone, who made the catch to end the game. A few feet either way, and the Spartans might have scored two or three more runs.
"I think Mario has been pretty successful (closing games)," Powers said. "Tonight, he just got the ball up."
Rivera, who allowed two runs and five hits in two innings, picked up his fourth save. Matt Renfree, who allowed a run and hit in one inning, picked up the win and is now 3-0.
"The ricochet (wild pitch) was obviously the turning point," Piraro said. "We would have tied the game. That doesn't happen often, just like you don't see a guy hit three homers in a game often."
The win means Nevada has won its second WAC series, and the Pack goes for its first conference sweep today on national television. Today's game will be shown on College Sports Television (CSTV), and its the first national TV game ever played at Peccole Park.
"It (today's game) is very big," Rivera said. "Losing a series out here (to Fresno State) and losing a series to Hawai'i. We can show all the fans that we're a team to look out for. We want to make a statement and make up for the (past) losses in conference."
Notes: Terry Walsh continues his hot hitting stretching his hitting streak to four games. He's batting a robust .370 ... Kort has a team-leading eight multi-RBI games and 15 multiple-hit games ... Kyle Howe will start today for Nevada, and as of game time Saturday, Piraro had yet to decide on a starter, but Spencer Snodgrass (2-2, 3.41), Josh Amberson (3-0, 4.57) or Steven Vidal (1-2, 5.24) would be the logical choices. All three have started multiple times this year.