BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO - For the first time in school history, the Nevada baseball team will play its opening game of the season at home.
Weather permitting, the Wolf Pack, 35-26 a year ago and runners-up in the WAC Tournament, open a three-game series today at 2 p.m. (630AM) against UC Irvine, a College World Series participant in 2007.
Nevada sends Rod Scurry (3-7, 5.08 last year) against Irvince ace Scott Gorgen (13-3, 2.83 ERA). Gorgen beat Nevada 9-1 last year, leading the Anteaters to a series sweep.
"It's a great opportunity for us to play a quality team the first weekend," said outfielder Terry Walsh, who is coming off a year where he hit .368 and drove in 30 runs. "I'm really excited. We're itching to play. You can only intrasquad so much."
Opportunity is what Powers has stressed since fall practice started. Besides UC Irvine, Nevada hosts UC Riverside and Oregon State in three-game series and plays Stanford on the road plus Dallas Baptist and Alabama in a tournament next week in Texas.
With 35 home games scheduled, weather permitting, Nevada can make a statement and start to get back on the regional/national scene.
Powers knows the challenges that lie ahead, and it starts today with Gorgen.
"We faced him (Gorgen) on Friday night (last year)," Walsh said. "We made seven errors and didn't hit when it counted."
Gorgen certainly will face a solid batting order that includes four players - Shaun Kort (.392, 50 RBI), Walsh (.368, 30 RBI), Jason Rodriguez (.313, 38 RBI) and Matt Bowman (.368 in 2006) - who hit over .300 in their last season.
Bowman redshirted after being hurt early in the season. His arm is still bothering him, so he'll be used strictly as a designated hitter early on. His bat will give the team a big boost, however.
Mike Hale (.295), David Ciarlo (.275, 10 stolen bases, 37 RBI) and Jason Sadoian (.285) also are tough, experienced hitters.
Nevada is two deep at nearly every position, something Powers hasn't enjoyed in recent years. He doesn't have to suffer through prolonged slumps or nagging injuies that affect a player's performance, because he has guys sitting on the bench that can get the job done.
"We have a lot of guys with the same type of ability," Powers said. "It gives us good depth and the opportunity to weather injury problems. It also creates competition within the team which makes you better.
"It's a solid group of guys. Our young kids, what they lack in experience they make up in talent. The young kids keep playing hard, and the guys ahead of them will have to keep working hard to stay ahead."
"No matter who coach puts in there, they will be ready to go," Walsh said.
Freshmen like outfielder Waylen Sing Chow, infielder Garrett Patterson, infielder Nick Leid and pitcher-outfielder Brock Stassi, dspite their inexperience, showed during fall scrimmages that they can get the job done.
Powers said that Stassi is knocking on the door in terms of breaking into the starting rotation, and he easily could go to the outfield if any of the starters falters.
UC Irvine is under the direction of former USC coach Mike Gillespie, who guided USC to 15 post-season appearance in 20 years.
The Anteaters' offense is led by Ollie Linton (.342, 21 RBI), infielder Ben Orloff (.324, 33 RBI), catcher Aaron Lowenstein (.296, 21 RBI), infielder Jeff Cusick (.319, 20 RBI), transfer Casey Stevenson (.397, 48 RBI) from College of the Canyons and Tyler Hoechlin (.341), who is a transfer from Arizona State.
Notes: Powers has tabbed Kyle Howe to start on Tuesday at Stanford ... UC Irvine leads the all-time series 5-4 ... Irvine ended the year ranked fourth nationally ... The Friday and Sunday games will be on radio, but Saturday's will not because of a time conflict with the Nevada-Southern Illinois basketball game which tips off at 1:30 p.m.