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27-0: 1992 Nevada Wolf Pack baseball team unbeatable at home

By Joe Santoro For the Nevada Appeal

Peccole Park has always been kind to the Nevada Wolf Pack baseball team.

The Wolf Pack has won 67 percent (563-283) of its games over 33 seasons at the house that William Peccole’s $250,000 initial donation built at the far northwest corner of the Nevada campus off Evans Avenue.

It started out as Peccole Field, was changed to Peccole Park in 1996 and now, thanks to another even bigger ($1 million) donation, is called Don Weir Field at Peccole Park. One thing, though, hasn’t changed in more than three decades.

Peccole Park does its best to take care of the Wolf Pack. And that was never more apparent than in 1992 when the Wolf Pack needed it the most.

The Wolf Pack, coming off a disappointing 24-33 season in 1991 and now left to play in the abyss that is independent baseball for one season, played 27 games at Peccole Field in 1992. And won them all. That lengthy string of perfection, a remarkable 27-0 home record over a span of just 80 days, is still one of the more remarkable achievements in all of Wolf Pack sports history.

And nobody saw it coming.

The Wolf Pack heading into 1992, after all, didn’t have much to play for beyond a simple love of the game. The Pack might have had a home field in 1992 (the stadium opened in 1988) but it didn’t have a conference to call home. Nevada was voted out of the West Coast Conference after 1991 and was headed to the Big West Conference in 1993.

Pack coach Gary Powers, who had compiled an uninspiring 234-239 record after nine seasons as head coach, declared in February 1992 that an NCAA Regional invitation was the target for 1992.

“It’s our only goal this year, really,” Powers said.

That goal, considering the Wolf Pack had never received a regional invitation in its Division I history (since 1970), was only slightly more realistic than, say, the Wolf Pack football team qualifying for the Rose Bowl.

The Wolf Pack baseball team, after all, was coming off a dreadful 1991 season when it finished sixth in the seven-team WCC at 10-25 in league play (just 7-10 at home).

The Wolf Pack lost 18 of its last 25 games in 1991.

Powers, though, free of having to play a 35-game WCC schedule, was going to use the 1992 season as an opportunity to reshape the program and prepare it for the rigors of playing in the tougher Big West Conference in 1993.

“We have the potential to win a lot of games,” Powers said.

There was, however, also the potential for another 24-33 disaster considering the roster had just four seniors. And one of those seniors — football linebacker David Norman — hadn’t played baseball since high school. The Pack also had a sophomore — football wide receiver Chris Singleton — who also had never played college baseball.

“We’re young,” Powers said as the 1992 season approached. “But there’s a new attitude.”

That attitude began to take shape as the Pack won seven of 10 road games to start the season. The young Pack gained a world of confidence by winning two of three at Loyola Marymount (the Pack had lost 14 of its last 18 against the Lions dating back to 1986) and also beating Pacific twice and Utah and Santa Clara once.

The home season began Feb. 28 with a 16-3 win over Utah as Norman had four hits and three RBI after going 3-for-23 on the road to start the year. The Pack then found itself down 5-4 the next day in the seventh inning against Pacific. But Tony Torres, a 5-foot-9 shortstop transfer from Contra Costa College, drilled a two-run homer as the Pack stole a 9-7 win.

The Wolf Pack then bashed Utah, a member of the Western Athletic Conference, once again, this time 9-1, to go to 10-3 overall and 3-0 at home. Cody Kosman, a transfer from Treasure Valley College in Oregon, went seven innings for his fourth win. Petie Roach and Singleton each drove in a pair of runs. Outfielder Jerry Torres, who now led the team with 25 hits, 16 runs and a .423 average, drove in three runs. The 10-3 start was the Pack’s best opening to a season since it moved to Division I in 1970.

“It’s about confidence,” said second baseman Dean Bonfigli, who led the Pack with a .366 average in 1991. “We know we can win every game. We never feel like we’re going to lose.”

“Every day it’s somebody different,” Powers said. “That’s why we’re winning.”

The Wolf Pack then headed to Lewiston, Idaho for the Lewis and Clark State Invitational. The Pack won four of five games to improve to 14-4, beating Gonzaga, Washington State, Portland State and Linfield College and losing to Lewis and Clark State. Gonzaga, Portland State and Washington State were all members of the Pac-10 in 1992. The Pack confidence was building with each inning.

The Pack came back to Peccole March 10-14 and whipped Stanislaus State 15-3 and beat Wyoming (of the WAC) 6-5 and 6-0. The Pack was now 17-4 overall and 6-0 at home.

Catcher Erik Moreno had three hits and a homer (his third in his last 17 at-bats) against Stanislaus. Moreno, who replaced Scott Rawlins (1989-91) as starting catcher, now led the Pack with 18 walks and 20 runs scored.

The home winning streak, though, almost ended at four. The Pack needed a walk-off homer by Roach to beat Wyoming 6-5 in 10 innings. The Cowboys, which dropped baseball after the 1996 season, came into the game riding an 11-game winning streak and left Peccole with a two-game losing streak.

“I haven’t had much luck getting one out of this yard,” said Roach who had just four home runs in 1991. “I knew I hit it good but you never know.”

The Pack’s 6-0 victory over Wyoming featured John Patton’s two-hit shutout. The sophomore righthander, who wrote his nickname, “The General,” under the bill of his cap, fanned seven and walked four in one of the best pitching performances by a Pack pitcher ever at Peccole. Jerry Torres, Bonfigli and Roach each had RBI singles and third baseman Scott Christy hit a homer. The Wolf Pack also turned a triple play with all four infielders touching the ball. The Pack was quickly becoming a team in every sense of the word, with everyone fitting in, helping each other and doing their part to win games. The Powers’ philosophy — all for one and one for all with no selfishness allowed — was coming to life on the field.

“I think we’ve already gotten respect,” Powers said. “We’re 17-4. There’s not too many teams in the country with a record like that.”

That 17-4 record, though, was now going to be put to its toughest test of the year in the always competitive Best in the West Tournament at Fresno State. The Pack would open the tournament against Cal State Northridge, an independent which was ranked No. 22 in the nation, and Creighton, which was ranked No. 26 and played in the College World Series the year before.

The Pack, though, lost to Northridge 10-7 and tied Creighton 7-7 but could have won both games. The Pack made four errors in the loss to Northridge. The tie with Creighton was even more frustrating. The Pack rallied from a 6-0 deficit to take a 7-6 lead in the ninth. The game was declared a tie after nine complete innings because of a tournament time limit (the 10th inning could not start if the game was already three hours long). Shane Doyle was masterful in relief against Creighton, making the comeback possible by allowing just two hits and no runs over five innings.

“It leaves you with an empty feeling,” Powers said. “But the way we came back was positive.”

The Pack played four more games in Fresno, beating Wyoming 11-0 and Nebraska 7-2 and losing to Washington State twice, 4-2, 5-4.

The Wolf Pack, though, then wrapped up its frustrating road trip by beating Oregon State 7-5 (Bonfigli and Norman each drove in three) at Sacramento State and returned to Peccole with a 20-7-1 record.

The Pack then survived a scare from Sonoma State, the No. 22-ranked Division II team in the nation, for a 6-5 win to improve to 7-0 at home. Tony Torres hit a homer, Norman had a RBI double, Kosman earned his seventh win in relief of Geoff Grenert and Doyle, a Hug High graduate, earned his first save.

The Pack, though, seemed to be losing steam both emotionally (the Regionals now seemed like a fantasy) and physically. The game against Sonoma State, after all, was the Pack’s 16th in its last 19 days.

“We looked tired,” Powers said after the uninspiring win over Sonoma State.

The Pack came back six days later to beat Chico State 7-3 at home to improve to 22-7-1 overall and 8-0 at Peccole. Jeff Manship hit a homer, Tony Torres doubled for his team-high 26th RBI, Jerry Torres got his team-high 37th and 38th hits and Patton pitched five innings for the win.

Up next, though, was a crucial three-game series at Cal State Northridge, which was still ranked in the Top 25 nationally. The Pack knew it had to win at least one game in the series to make the NCAA selection committee take notice.

“If we beat that team then we’ll be legitimate,” Powers said.

The Wolf Pack then gave Northridge five unearned runs in the first inning of the first game and ended up losing all three games, 6-4, 4-1, 9-4.

The Pack, with 23 games remaining on the schedule, was now 22-10-1. Nobody in silver and blue was talking about the regionals now.

But there was still a lot to play for.

The Pack would play 20 of its final 23 games at home. It was a chance to get real comfortable and win a lot of games and jump back into the NCAA Regional conversation.

The Wolf Pack came back to Peccole for the start of a 13-game homestand and whipped Cal, 17-8. The Wolf Pack, which lost at Cal 9-8 in late February, tortured the Golden Bears pitching staff with 22 hits.

Roach drove in two runs with a triple and three more with a homer in an eight-run eighth to put the game away. Moreno, Singleton, Tony Torres and Bonfigli all had three hits each.

The win over the Pac-10 school (Nevada’s first win over Cal since 1984 after five straight losses) seemed to breathe life back into the Pack. The Pack then reeled off 12 more wins a row to complete an eye-opening 13-0 homestand.

After destroying Southern Utah four times by a combined score of 62-12 (Southern Utah would go 4-43 in 1992) the Pack beat Sacramento State 8-5 as Roach hit a homer in the eighth. Three more wins (6-3, 8-1, 10-5) against former WCC foe San Francisco followed.

The 6-3 win was preserved when Croft came out of the bullpen to get a game-ending double play with the bases loaded in the ninth. Scott Coons hit a homer in the win and Bonfigli and Roach each drove in a pair of runs. The second and third wins over USF came in a doubleheader the next day. Kevin Lake went eight innings for an 8-1 win in the first game. USF, though, jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning of the second game but the Pack offense then erupted. Roach hit a three-run homer, Norman had three hits and two RBI as the Pack won easily 10-5.

“We could be down 15-0 but we have the type of team where nobody loses confidence,” Roach said.

The Wolf Pack was now 17-0 at home and 31-10-1 overall. Four more wins over UC Davis (13-3) and Grand Canyon (9-1, 5-1, 11-8) followed to wrap up the landmark 13-0 homestand.

Kosman went seven innings to beat Davis to improve to 10-2 on the year, equaling Don Groh (1982) for the school record for victories in a season. Moreno hit a grand slam against Davis for the Pack’s 50th homer of the year. The Pack would set the school record with 64 homers in 1992 despite just one player (Roach) hitting more than six.

The 5-1 win over Grand Canyon was the Wolf Pack’s 20th in a row at home. Freshman center fielder Terrance Wilson hit a homer while Bonfigli, Moreno and Tony Torres each had two hits. The Pack was now ranked 38th in the nation by USA Today.

The Pack also whipped Grand Canyon 9-1 behind a complete game by Grenert. Wilson, who was one of the best players on the west coast over the final month of the 1992 season, also had a bases-loaded walk off a 13-pitch at-bat (nine fouls).

Kosman set the school record with his 11th win in the 11-8 win over Grand Canyon as Jerry Torres hit his fourth homer of the year.

The Wolf Pack was now 35-10-1 on the year and 21-0 at home. But Powers wasn’t about to start celebrating just yet.

“I really believe if you let up on them, they will let up on themselves,” Powers said. “These kids just know that I’m going to push them every day.”

After an easy 8-1 win at Chico State, the Pack came back to Peccole to beat Pacific 11-6 and Chapman in a doubleheader (17-8, 6-4) to improve to 24-0 at home and 39-10-1 overall.

Bonfigli and Tony Torres each had three hits against Pacific. The two wins over Chapman saw the Pack set the school record for wins in a season at 39 (the 1980 Pack won 38). Jerry Torres, Singleton and Norman all hit homers in the 17-8 win in the first game against Chapman. Roach hit his 11th homer of the year in the second game, a 6-4 win.

The Chapman doubleheader was played on May 9 after being delayed a week (and shortened by a game) because of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles.

All that remained in the regular season was a doubleheader at Sacramento State and a three-game showdown against UNLV at Peccole Field.

The NCAA Regionals (the field would be announced the day after the UNLV series ended) was now the main topic of conversation at Peccole Field. The Pack, after all, had now won 17 games in a row and had not lost since it was at Northridge more than a month earlier.

“If one thing’s not on, we’ll still find a way to win,” said Wilson, who had hit safely in all 17 of the games during the Pack streak and would finish with a team-leading .371 average. “If we’re not hitting our pitchers will pick us up. If the pitchers struggle, we score a lot of runs.”

All for one, one for all.

The Pack then drove over to Sacramento and whipped Sac State 10-2 in the first game of a doubleheader as Roach and Tony Torres hit homers and Singleton, Roach and Tony Torres each had three hits. Roach’s homer was his 12th of the year and tied him with Greg Campbell (1982) and Tom Jessee (1976) for the school record.

The Pack now also had 40 wins in a season for the first time in school history.

Sacramento State, which won 32 games in 1992, ended the Wolf Pack winning streak at 18 in a row with a 3-1 win in the second game of the doubleheader. The last time the Pack had been held to one run was a 4-1 loss at Northridge 20 games earlier. The Wolf Pack would score 441 runs in 1992 in 55 games after scoring just 293 in 57 games the year before.

The Pack, now 40-11-1, now only had a three-game series at home against UNLV with which to impress the NCAA Regional selection committee. And there was also the matter of protecting Peccole.

UNLV, under coach Fred Dallimore, a former Wolf Pack pitcher in the 1960s, owned the Wolf Pack in the rivalry in recent years. The Rebels, now in the Big West Conference, had won 31-of-40 games against the Pack since 1976. Powers, who took over the Pack in 1983, was 6-18 against the Rebels.

The Wolf Pack opened the series by sweeping a doubleheader from the Rebels, 10-9 and 9-5. The two wins seemed to validate the entire Pack season. Powers even took it a step further.

“We’ve been coming on as a program for four years now, ever since we built this facility,” Powers said, looking out over Peccole Field.

Roach, who would lead the Pack with 60 RBI in 1992 and hit .323, hit a homer in both games, setting the school record with 14. Israel Cintora pitched four shutout innings in the first game. Lake (five innings) and Patton (four) combined to beat the Rebels in the second game. Roach and Norman each hit three-run homers in the second game. Tony Torres had three hits in both games. The only thing that was missing a cannonball shot out of the Fremont Cannon, which was sitting in nearby Cashell Fieldhouse.

Wilson made a remarkable catch in right-center field during the doubleheader in which he seemingly flashed more air time than Michael Jordan. The Pack grounded into a triple play in the first game and still won.

“We played like it was a regional,” Norman said.

The two football players — Norman and Singleton — would both finish the year with an average over .300. Norman would hit .317 with seven homers and 36 RBI while Singleton hit .308.

UNLV was up 4-1 in the first game before the Pack rallied. The Rebels, trailing 10-9, had the bases loaded in the ninth with two outs with one of their best hitters (Reed High graduate Nick Kuster) at the plate.

Wolf Pack freshman Jason Rogers, a lefthander from McQueen High, then fanned Kuster on three pitches. Dallimore argued with the umpires and got ejected.

“That’s bad umpiring,” Dallimore said. “You don’t win that many games at home without some home cooking.”

It was just Peccole taking care of its Pack.

The Pack was now 26-0 at home and a game away from perfection.

Kosman fanned nine Rebels the next day as the Pack completed the sweep, 2-0. The 27-0 home season was now a reality.

“We proved we’re for real,” Powers said.

The Wolf Pack was now 43-11-1 on the year, winners of 21 of their last 22 games. One of the things the NCAA Regional selection committee supposedly valued heavily was how a team finished the season.

“Our chances for a regional look even better,” said Roach.

The Wolf Pack gathered at JJ’s Pie Company, a Reno restaurant owned by Jason Rogers’ father, for ESPN’s NCAA Regional Selection show. The field was just 48 teams in 1992, making it extremely difficult for an independent team to get an invitation. But the Pack had the second-best season among independents in the nation, behind only the Miami Hurricanes (50-7).

“We feel we can play with anybody in the country,” Norman said.

“If they don’t pick us then it’s their fault,” Bonfigli said. “They’ll have to live with it.”

They didn’t pick the Pack.

California, whose coach, Bob Milano, was on the NCAA selection committee, got in with just 31 victories and didn’t even have a winning record in the Pac-10 (14-16).

Creighton and Northridge, also an independent, also went to a regional. The Pac-10 sent six teams to the Regionals and none of them won as many games as the Wolf Pack. Nearly one-fourth on the entire field (11-of-48) was from the west and none were named Nevada.

“I’m thoroughly disappointed,” Powers said.

There was a mixture of shock, surprise, bitterness, anger and frustration at JJ’s as the players slowly left.

“What does it take to get in?” said Kosman, who was 13-2 in 1992 (Grenert was 8-4). “You practice hard every day, you work your butt off and you don’t get rewarded? It doesn’t seem right.”

“They held our destiny in their hands but they didn’t follow through with our dream,” Bonfigli said. “I guess our schedule came back to haunt us.”

The Pack schedule was a convenient excuse for the NCAA Selection Committee. But it actually wasn’t fair. The Pack did go 10-1 against non-Division I teams but they were also 33-10-1 against Division I teams. They went 5-3 against the Pac-10 (Gonzaga and Portland State were members of the Pac-10 in 1992), 6-1 against the West Coast Conference, 5-1 against the Big West and 5-0 against the Western Athletic Conference.

“We have nothing to be ashamed of,” Moreno said.

The 27-0 home record will likely stand as long as the Wolf Pack plays college baseball. The Wolf Pack outscored its opposition, 278-106, over the 27 games, an average of 10.3 to 3.9. The Pack hit .307 as a team and had a team ERA of 3.38.

Tony Torres (.340), Jerry Torres (.339) and Jeff Manship (.331) finished right behind Wilson (.371) for the team batting title.

“I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to go undefeated at home,” Singleton said.

If they didn’t know in 1992, they likely know now. The 27 victories remains a one-season record for a home season at Peccole. The fewest losses the Pack has had at Peccole before and after 1992 is four, in 1998, 1999 and 2018. But the Pack played just 19 (1998), 20 (1999) and 22 (2018) home games those seasons.

“It’s not the field,” said Bonfigli, explaining the 27-0 season late in 1992. “It’s the fans. This is the best support we’ve ever had.”

The 1992 season invigorated Wolf Pack baseball and jumpstarted the best decade in program history.

The Pack struggled in its first season (1993) in the ultra-competitive Big West Conference, going 7-14 in league play, but still was a respectable 28-19 overall thanks to the new-found Peccole Field magic.

The Pack won 12 of its first 13 home games in 1993, including a memorable 6-5 win over Stanford. They also beat Cal at Peccole later in the year before the season fell apart late in the year in Big West play.

The 1992 season was the springboard to four NCAA Regional appearances in 1994, 1997, 1999 and 2000. It was 1992 that taught the Pack how to win and established Peccole as one of the top home-field advantages in the west.

“I’ve never had a group of kids give me what these kids did,” Powers said in 1992. “They gave everything you could ask and then some. You won’t be able to take this season away. Their records are in the book and they’re going to stay there for a while.”

A 27-0 home record and 43 wins are still in the Pack record book.

“From the first day to the last it was a dream come true,” Norman said.