RENO - For the first time in school history, the Nevada baseball team played a home game in front of a national television audience.
And, the Wolf Pack showed no signs of jitters in their home TV debut on CSTV. In fact, Nevada players seemed oblivious to the many cameras set up around Peccole Park Sunday afternoon.
Thanks to a six-run first inning and 81Ú3 shutout innings by junior right-hander Kyle Howe, the Wolf Pack breezed to a 12-1 win over San Jose State, and a sweep of the Western Athletic Conference series.
Nevada improved to 7-5 in conference and 23-18 overall. San Jose State dropped to 3-6 in conference and 22-15 overall. The Pack is alone in third with Hawai'i, which dropped a double-header to Fresno State Sunday.
The conference sweep was the first since last May when the Pack swept Sacramento State and New Mexico State to end the regular season. It also avenged the Pack being swept at home by the Spartans in 2006.
"We were focused. We played with intensity and we had a good competitive spirit for 27 innings," Nevada coach Gary Powers said. "We had to do that to get the rewards that we did."
The big news was Howe's performance.
Howe threw a season-high 81Ú3 innings, leaving after surrendering a homer to Greg Fyfe on a hanging slider with one out in the ninth. He also struck out a career-high six hitters and walked just two. Even after being staked to an early 6-0 lead, he seemed to pitch as if the game was scoreless.
"With metal bats, a six-run lead can change quickly," Howe said. "I was finally able to show what I could do. It was my longest outing of the year, and I was glad to see the ninth for the first time this season. Last year in junior college, I pitched a couple of good games."
Howe, who improved to 2-2 and lowered his ERA to 4.50, admitted he was disappointed at not being able to finish with a shutout.
"It always seems to happen," he said. "Hang a slider and it gets banged for a homer."
Howe was coming off an impressive performance against Fresno State, a game that saw him wind up with a no decision thanks to a shoddy effort by the Pack bullpen.
"That's what we expected out of him," Powers said. "Last week I took him out too early. He rebounded with a great effort.
"He had good command of his slider today. He had better command of his slider than his fastball."
Of course it's much easier for a pitcher to do his job when his teammates stake him to an early six-run lead.
San Jose State starter Tyler Fockler, who was making his starting debut, had trouble locating his pitches. He faced just seven batters, hitting one and walking three. All four of those hitters scored.
Fockler hit lead-off hitter Jason Sadoian and then walked Jason Rodriguez. After Shaun Kort struck out, Konrad Schmidt singled to center to score Sadoian. It was the first of three hits for Schmidt, who raised his average to .367.
Fockler walked both Jacob Kaup and Terry Walsh to force in a run to make it 2-0, and was pulled by SJSU coach Sam Piraro.
Brandon Hennessey came in to relieve Fockler. Mike Hale followed with a double to deep left, scoring Schmidt and Kaup for a 4-0 lead. Chris Siewert made it 5-0 with an infield roller to short and David Ciarlo drove in the sixth run with a single.
"He (Howe) got a quick three outs in the first, we put six up and he gets three more outs," Schmidt said. "That set the tone for the day."
Howe got out of a minor scrape in the second when he yielded a lead-off double to Donato Giovanatto. The Pack got a break two batters later when Kyle Bellows drilled a hard groundball up the middle. The ball hit Giovanatto for the second out, and Howe retired Brian Chase on a fly ball to center to end the inning.
In the sixth, the Spartans loaded the bases on a walk, single and error. Howe induced Ryan Angel to ground to short to end the inning. Howe breezed through the seventh and eighth.
Hennessey kept Nevada in check until the sixth when Ciarlo singled, went to second on a balk and scored on a single to right by Rodriguez to make it 7-0.
Walsh, who stretched his hitting streak to five straight, crushed a three-run homer to left in the seventh to drive in Schmidt and Kaup, both of whom had singled.
With a plethora of outfielders, Walsh has played in all but four games, but has started only 27 times. He has delivered in a steady, workmanlike way and made the most of his opportunities.
"I'm seeing it pretty good right now," said Walsh, who is hitting .369. "I'm getting hitter's counts. Early in the year, it as 0-2 or 1-2.
"I'm not frustrated at all (with playing time overall). Last year it was the complete opposite. We had only two guys that could hit. I'd rather see us have too many hitters instead of not enough hitters. I know if I don't start, I have a chance to get in there in the sixth or seventh inning because of the way coach Powers likes to match up."
Kaup singled home two runs in the eighth to complete the scoring.
• Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281