Pack its own worse enemy is doubleheader loss | NevadaAppeal.com
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Pack its own worse enemy is doubleheader loss

JOE SANTORO
For the Nevada Appeal

The Nevada Wolf Pack baseball team has seen the enemy and the enemy is wearing silver and blue.

“It’s a hard deal,” Wolf Pack coach Gary Powers said after a doubleheader loss, 8-7 and 4-0, to the Hawaii Rainbows at Peccole Park on Saturday. “We just can’t get out of our own way.”

“We should have easily won all four of these games this weekend,” pitcher Brock Stassi said. “But we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”

The Wolf Pack ended up losing three of the four games in this Western Athletic Conference series to fall to 17-26 overall and 6-9 in the WAC. Hawaii leaves town at 27-20 and in first place in the WAC at 12-4.

“It was very frustrating,” said Stassi, who had four hits in the two games and pitched 7.2 strong innings in the second game. “But that’s baseball sometimes. It can be a very frustrating game. It comes down to how you handle it.”

The Pack didn’t handle it well, Powers said.

“This is real discouraging,” the Pack coach admitted.

It didn’t start out that way.

The Pack jumped all over Hawaii starter Zach Gallagher in the first inning of the first game for six runs and six hits. Six of the first seven Pack hitters all got hits and scored a run.

The Pack, though, would score just one more run over the remaining 15 innings in the two games (the first game of WAC doubleheaders are seven innings).

“I just don’t think we did a good job of battling at the plate,” said Stassi, who had one hit in the first game and three in the second. “I know I came up to the plate with a runner in scoring position three times in that first game and didn’t do the job. I was awful.”

Stassi and Nick Melino each had a double, Tommy Niebergall tripled and Garrett Yrigoyen slammed a three-run homer as the Pack took its 6-0 lead right out of the gate in the first game.

That six-run first inning completed a stretch of 10 consecutive innings in this series where the Pack outscored Hawaii 19-0. They outscored the Rainbows 3-0 over the final two innings of a 12-9 loss on Thursday, beat the Rainbows 10-0 in a seven-inning game on Friday and were up 6-0 after one inning on Saturday.

The momentum towards a doubleheader and series victory all seemed to be in the Pack dugout. And then the momentum disappeared and never returned.

Hawaii countered with three runs in the second inning (A.J. Bayus hit a two-run homer) of the second game off Pack starter Jeremy Cole. A run-scoring single by Carlos Escobar that gave the Pack a 7-3 lead in the third inning of Game 1 proved to be the final Pack run of the afternoon.

Blair Walters and Lenny Linsky combined to blank the Pack over the final four innings of the first game and Randy Yard, Jesse Moore and Linsky combined to shut out the Pack in the second game.

“There’s no big secret to all this,” Powers said. “Guys need to step up. You have to be prepared to face the challenge and do the job when it presents itself. And we didn’t do that.”

Hawaii won the first game with four unearned runs in the fifth inning. The Rainbows also had four hits in the inning but an error by Pack shortstop Braden Shipley loaded the bases with two outs. Kolten Wong followed with a two-run single and Zack Swasey and Collin Bennett also had RBI singles as the Rainbows took an 8-7 lead.

The Wolf Pack left a runner at second in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Linsky retired the final five Pack hitters to record his WAC-leading 11th save.

“We didn’t pitch,” Powers said. “You’ve got to pitch to have success in this game and we didn’t pitch (in the first game).”

Pack starter Jeremy Cole allowed nine hits and four runs in 3.2 innings despite being handed a quick 6-0 lead in a seven-inning game.

“It’s not about ability,” Powers said. “It’s about focus and concentration. In this park, you have to keep the ball down. When we’ve had success (Troy Marks pitched the seven-inning shutout on Friday), it’s when they’ve kept the ball down.

“Jeremy Cole got the ball up all day and you saw what happened. That has been a consistent problem with all of our starting pitchers this year. We don’t have strikeout pitchers. So we have to pitch down in the zone to have success. We haven’t figured that out yet.”

The second game was equally frustrating for the Pack hitters. The Pack had 11 base runners against Yard and Moore on nine hits and two walks over the first eight innings but couldn’t score.

Brian Barnett, who was 1-for-8 with four strikeouts in the two games, flied out to center with runners on second and third in the third inning.

Joe Kohan flied out to left with a runner on second to end the fifth. Yrigoyen took a called third strike and Carlos Escobar flied out to center with the bases loaded in the sixth and Stassi flied out to center with runners on first and third to end the seventh.

Hugo Hernandez and Yrigoyen each flied out to right with Melino on second in the eighth.

It was definitely a frustrating end to a frustrating afternoon and weekend for the Pack.

“We couldn’t swing the bat when we needed to,” Powers said. “When the opportunity presents itself, you have to rise to the occasion. We had guys go up there and take called third strikes with men on base. If you don’t swing the bat, nothing positive can happen.”

Stassi turned in his most impressive performance of the year on the mound in the second game. The senior left-hander, who was unable to pitch the first two months of the season because of a sore shoulder, allowed 10 hits in 7.2 innings but he also fanned six and walked just one during his 115-pitch outing.

“It felt good,” he said. “The shoulder is getting back to how it felt in the past. It felt good. But it could have been better, though.”