Wolf Pack shows Tech Howe it's done
BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO - Nevada's Kyle Howe admitted that his first inning of work Thursday night was one of the worst in his career.
Howe gave up a four-spot in the first inning on a grand slam to Louisiana Tech's Albie Goulder, and then didn't allow a hit the rest of the way in his 7 1/3-inning stint in Nevada's 11-6 victory over the Bulldogs in the Western Athletic Conference opener for both schools at Peccole Park.
Howe was so dominant that the only runners that reached base after the grand slam were by walks (four). When Nevada coach Gary Powers pulled him with two outs in the eighth, Howe had retired 20 of the last 24 batters he faced.
"That's always been my M.O.," Howe said after improving to 2-0. "I always have a bad first inning. Ask my parents. I have a rough inning and then settle down.
"I was leaving everything up in the zone. Kevin (Rodland) talked to me after the homer and said they would pick me up and they did."
Nevada (9-8 overall, 1-0 in conference), led by Jason Rodriguez's two doubles and a homer, pounded out 14 hits against four different Tech pitchers.
Shaun Kort, Rodland, and Travis Simas all collected two hits and drove in two runs. Mike Hale also hit safely twice.
In fact, Nevada almost wiped out that 4-0 lead in its first inning with three runs of its own. Rodriguez had a run-scoring double and Kort followed with a homer, his third of the season.
"The three in the first was huge," Howe said.
Howe settled down, and his teammates picked him up. There was no panic in the dugout after Tech's quick start, according to Rodland and Rodriguez.
"The last four games we've scored over 10 runs," Rodland said. "We score 10 runs and Kyle is going to come back and pitch well."
"It seemed like nobody cared [about the early deficit]," Rodriguez said. "Last [year's attitude] has carried over to this year. We laid the foundation [attitude-wise] last season. We have a lot of the same guys back. We don't get concerned when we fall behind. Everybody had great at bats, and Simas' was one of the biggest."
Terry Walsh's infield out tied the game at 4, and then a two-run single by Rodland in the fifth made it 6-4, and a two-run single by Simas plus Ciarlo's triple, both in the seventh, made it 9-4.
It was gratifying to see Rodland and Simas produce at the plate. Injuries have limited their playing time and effectiveness. Rodland and Simas (broken finger) entered the contest batting .237 and .188, respectively.
Rodland's injury came from his heel rubbing against the back of his shoe, and because the padding had worn down, he was in major discomfort and bruised his Achilles'. He had missed the previous three games.
"It had been a while since I'd seen live pitching," Rodland said. "It [hitting in the cage] isn't the same. It was good to get a couple of hits and drive in a couple of runs."
Simas came up in the seventh with one out and the bases loaded with Nevada leading 6-4.
Powers put the squeeze on, and Tech reliever Alex Richard threw a pitch way outside that Simas was unable to get a bat on. Kort, the runner at third, was thrown out easily.
Dan Eastham and Rodland, who had reached on a single and walk, respectively, moved up to third and second. Simas followed with his two-run single moments later.
"I should have put a bat on the ball - should have hit it," Simas said. "I had to redeem myself. I wanted to get those guys home. I didn't care if it was a bloop or not. I broke my finger early on, and I'm starting to find my swing now. The other day [against Oregon State] I felt pretty good."
Rodriguez gave the Pack some insurance runs in the eighth with a two-run homer, his sixth of the season which ties him for the conference lead with Goulder, who accounted for all of Tech's runs with two homers.
"He's got to be seeing it pretty well," Powers said. "He's not up there trying to hit them [homers]. He's just putting a good swing on it. He's a lot stronger than he was last year."
To start the 32-game conference season out with a win was huge, according to Powers.
"We've been focused on this one for a little bit," Powers said. "The key is to make improvements and staying the course through the first 16 [nonconference] games."
"To get to a regional, we're going to have to win conference," Rodland said. "I felt we were a little more focused tonight then we have been."
NOTES: Second baseman David Ciarlo threw up three times in the fifth inning. The game was held up for a few minutes while he was attended to by trainer Chris Lange. He stayed in the game and went 1-for-3 with a run-scoring triple in the seventh ... The series continues today at 6 p.m. with Nevada's Rod Scurry opposing Alan Knotts ... Kort extended his hit streak to seven games, while Rodriguez and Hale now have six-game streaks.
• Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281