Ciarlo on cloud nine for Nevada

RENO - As a kid growing up, the ninth spot in the batting order was reserved for the worst hitter on the team, and one spot you wanted to avoid.

Nevada second baseman David Ciarlo never had to worry about that as a young player, but he's been solidly entrenched in the No. 9 spot during the 2007 season and seven of the eight Nevada games in 2008.

Ciarlo has hit No. 9 in 47 of Nevada's last 70 games, dating back to the 2007 season. It would be easy to complain, but Ciarlo doesn't. The fact that he's in the line-up everyday, as his 79 straight starts suggest, is good enough for him.

Ciarlo is in a groove that hitters dream about. Entering today's series against UC Riverside, Ciarlo had five straight multi-hit games and was hitting a robust and team-leading .615 with two homers and nine RBI. He is leading the team in nine different categories.

"Yeah, I've kind of got that spot locked down," said Ciarlo before Nevada takes on UC Riverside today (2 p.m.) in the opener of a three-game series. "But to tell you the truth, I don't care where I hit. In this (batting) order it doesn't make a difference. I know I'll still come up with guys on base."

That's because this is one of Nevada's deepest teams in recent memory. It's full of tough outs - not power hitters.

"All of our teams in the past have had guys that were productive in that spot," Nevada coach Gary Powers said. "It's important to have a guy that helps get the offense going."

In Ciarlo, the Pack has a player who can hit for a decent average (.275 last year), has a little pop in his bat (7 homers in 2007) and the ability to steal bases (18-for-19 the last two years). He's almost like a second lead-off hitter in the sense that he makes good contact and can run.

First baseman Shaun Kort, who also rooms with Ciarlo, said he's never seen his friend hit so well.

"I'm happy to see him do well," Kort said.

The Pack second baseman credits much of his success this year to assistant coaches Jay Uhlman and Gary McNamara, both of whom have put in a lot of time with him in the batting cage.

"For David, the main thing has been his experience and his maturity," Uhlman said. "His visual recognition has improved so much. I think he chased a lot of sliders (that were balls) and took strikes.

"We've been working on getting the plane of his bat quickly and longer in the path of his ball. That has allowed him to be successful."

And his defense?

Ciarlo covers a fair amount of ground and has quick hands. He was part of 47 double plays last season, as the Pack ranked 21st in the nation in that category. Last year he made just eight errors in 308 chances for an impressive .974 average.

Not a bad guy to have in the middle of the infield. He's saved the bacon for one of his pitchers on more than one occasion.


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