Nevada Baseball: Wolf Pack downs San Jose State; Whitt earns save
For the Nevada Appeal
The Nevada Wolf Pack wasn’t about to let a few raindrops spoil its home opener on Friday night.
“I came into the game expecting to battle some adverse weather conditions,” starting pitcher Michael Fain said after the Wolf Pack’s 6-4 victory over the San Jose State Spartans at soggy Peccole Park. “But it wasn’t too bad. When I was out there it was only drizzling.”
Fain and rain proved to be a winning combination for the Wolf Pack, which stopped a six-game losing streak with the much-needed victory. The 6-foot-6 sophomore went 5.2 innings and didn’t allow an earned run in picking up his first victory (1-1) of the season.
“That was the best effort by one of our starting pitchers this year,” Wolf Pack coach Jay Johnson said. “He did a great job getting us into the sixth inning. That helped set up our bullpen perfectly.”
Fain was followed to the mound by Colby Blueberg, Tyler Wells and Adam Whitt. Blueberg got the final out in the sixth by striking out Kalei Contrades with two runners on base and Whitt pitched the final two innings for his second save of the year.
“One of the big reasons why we lost those six games in a row was because we had to go to our bullpen too early,” said Johnson, whose Wolf Pack improved to 3-6 overall and 1-3 in the Mountain West. “Michael going out there and getting those two outs in the sixth was big. That meant Adam only had to get six outs.”
Whitt was nearly perfect, allowing just a one-out walk in the ninth. He then retired Kyle Gallegos on a soft liner to short and Brett Bautista on a lazy fly ball to left to wrap up the victory for Fain.
And he did it in a steady downpour.
“It didn’t really start raining hard until I finished my warm-ups,” said Fain, who entered the game at the start of the eighth inning after Wells allowed three runs in the seventh. “But I didn’t really think about the rain. I know the rain bothers the hitters because it makes them move their eyes. It didn’t bother me at all. So I just wanted to use it to my advantage.”
Whitt retired six of seven Spartans in the eighth and ninth innings.
“I’m so proud of him,” Johnson said. “On Tuesday when he gave up that game-winning homer (in a 7-4 loss at Sacramento State) he stood up in front of the team after the game and told them, ‘That will never happen again.’ I thought that showed a lot of character for him to do that.”
Whitt struck out two and walked just one and threw 30 of his 45 pitches for strikes.
“I love coming in the game knowing my teammates are counting on me to finish the game,” Whitt said. “This is what I’ve been working for, to be in that situation.”
Fain, who allowed five hits and four walks, worked out of trouble in most of his innings and retired the side in order just once, in the fifth.
He allowed a two-out walk and a single in the first but got Batista to roll out to first to end the threat. He gave up a leadoff single in the second but fanned the next two hitters and got Contrades to bounce out to short. In the third he gave up a pair of singles and then walked Bautista intentionally to load the bases with two outs. He got out of the jam by striking out Matt Carroll on three pitches.
Contrades reached base on a two-out walk in the fourth but was thrown out trying to steal second by Pack catcher Jordan Devencenzi to end the inning. Fain then left the game with two outs in the sixth after allowing a single and a walk.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” Johnson said. “This was a conference game but it was still just our third weekend of the season. He had thrown enough (100 pitches).”
A single by Brad Gerig, driving in Devencenzi, gave Fain and the Pack a 1-0 lead in the second inning. The Pack then broke the game open with three unearned runs in the fifth. Kewby Meyer singled and scored in the inning and Devencenzi drove in a run with a single. The Spartans (2-8, 1-3) also made two errors in the inning.
Jay Anderson brought home Bryce Greager with a one-out triple in the sixth for a 5-1 Pack lead and Anderson later scored on a bunt by Justin Bridgman.
“I call that our red zone offense,” Johnson said. “When you get runners in scoring position with less than two outs you have to score those runs. We did a good job of that tonight.”
The Wolf Pack, which had scored just 13 runs over its first eight games, received contributions up and down the lineup on Friday. Leadoff hitter Kyle Hunt got on base three times, on a single, walk and an error. Devencenzi had two hits and is now hitting .500 (8-for-16) on the season. Greager had a double and a walk, Anderson got on base three times with a triple, walk and was hit by a pitch and Bridgman had two sacrifice bunts and a walk in the ninth spot in the order.
“This was a good team win,” Johnson said.
“We’ve been losing games because we haven’t been putting it all together in the same game,” Whitt said. “One day we get good pitching and we don’t score runs and the next day we score runs and don’t pitch well. This game we did everything. This was a nice little sample of what’s to come for this team.”
The Wolf Pack took a team photo near home plate after the game with the victorious scoreboard in the background. Johnson plans on mailing the photo — of the entire team and the scoreboard behind them — to various Wolf Pack fans throughout the year after every victory.
“Wins in college baseball are hard to come by and I want our players to respect every win,” Johnson said. “But this program also gets great support from this community and I want our fans to share in all our wins.”
The Spartans and Wolf Pack will conclude this three-game series with games on Saturday (1 p.m.) and Sunday (noon).