Nevada baseball pounds out win

RENO - Baker Krukow likened Nevada's win over Louisiana Tech to a heavyweight fight.

"We scored and they scored. It just went back and forth," Krukow said. "It was a fun game to be a part of."

And, it's always more fun when you win.

Thanks to Jason Rodriguez's three-run homer in the fourth, a two-run double by Shaun Kort in the fifth and three scoreless and hitless innings by reliever Matt Renfree, the Wolf Pack edged the second-place Bulldogs 9-7 Friday night at Peccole Park before a crowd of 644.

Nevada improved to 26-21 overall and 10-6 in Western Athletic Conference play. Tech dropped to 32-18 overall and 12-7 in conference. Nevada trails league-leading Fresno State by two games, but trails Tech by only a half-game.

"This was an offense and bullpen win," Nevada coach Gary Powers said. "Ryan struggled, but gutted through. Matt came in and did a great job. There's not much you can say about his last two efforts.

"He (Ryan) got no decisions (early in the season) where he put us in position to win games. It all balances out."

Rodriguez did pick up his 30th career win, but he allowed seven runs and nine hits in six-plus innings.

Renfree has now pitched 7 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, 4 1/3 to pick up the win last weekend against Sacramento State and three innings last night to earn his first save of the season.

Renfree, 4-0, came on in the seventh after Rodriguez walked Drew Bunting and gave up a run-scoring double to Brian Rike to make it 8-7. Renfree whiffed Courtney Jones on a slider for the first out, and then got the dangerous Albie Goulder on a groundball to short and Dennis Winn on a comebacker.

After retiring Tech in order in the eighth, Nevada scored an insurance run on Chris Siewert's two-out single. Renfree struck out the side in the ninth, including a punchout of Rike, who came into the game hitting .357.

"I was spotting my fastball," Renfree said. "That allowed me to strike them out with breaking balls.

"I just wanted to do my job and keep the team in the game. Ryan battled out there most of the game and did his job."

So did the offense. Nevada scored in five of its eight at-bats, and despite leaving 12 runners on, managed to get enough big hits to take the opening game of the series.

"Anytime you are in a series, you want to win the Friday game regardless of whether it's Louisiana Tech (or somebody else)," said Krukow, who went 3-for-4 and drove in a run. "There are three weeks left in the season. This speaks volumes about how big this win was."

And how big the Nevada bats were. The Pack answered the challenge against one of the best offenses in the conference. Twice Nevada rallied from one-run deficits with three-run outbursts in the fourth and fifth innings.

Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth, No. 9 hitter David Ciarlo hit a one-out double to left. Jason Sadoian, who reached base four times, drew his second free pass of the game. Rodriguez, the Pack's left-handed hitting third baseman, followed with his first homer of the season over the left-center field fence to give Nevada a 5-3 lead.

Rodriguez, who finished with a career-high four RBI, had struck out his first two times up, and looked bad doing it.

"I was just trying to put the ball into play," Rodriguez said. "I got a good pitch to hit and hit it pretty good. I hit it on the barrel, but I didn't know it was out.

"That's the first time I've ever hit an off-field homer. I always wanted to do that."

It showed a little bit of character that Powers is always preaching about.

"That says it all," Powers said of Rodriguez's hit. "He was able to focus on his next at-bat (after the two strikeouts). You have to forget about those things.

"We had some one-out situations where we didn't produce, but we had two-out situations that we did produce. That's a character thing where you bear down and focus at the right time."

Goulder's three-run homer, his fifth round-tripper in his last four conference games, gave Tech a 6-5 lead in the fifth.

Nevada's offense picked up its pitching ace again in the bottom of the inning.

With one out, Siewert doubled to left. Ciarlo was hit by a pitch, and Tech starter Luke Burnett departed in favor of Brandon Hudson.

Rodriguez blooped a double to short center to score Siewert and make it 6-6. Kort, who went 4-for-5, followed with a double to left to score two runs and give the Pack a 8-6 lead.

The Bulldogs closed to 8-7 in the seventh, but Renfree shut them down the rest of the way in probably his most impressive outing of the season considering Tech was hitting .317 as a team.

Notes: There was a 14-minute rain delay, but it was short enough that both starting pitchers remained in the game ... Catcher Konrad Schmidt had his five-game hitting streak snapped, and Terry Walsh had his four-game hit streak snapped. Krukow and Kort each have modest 2-game hit streaks going ... Kort had his third four-hit game of the season and his 18th multi-hit game of the season. He leads the team with a .389 average... Rod Scurry starts for Nevada tonight at 6 in the second game of the series.


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