Fresno State pummels Wolf Pack | NevadaAppeal.com

Fresno State pummels Wolf Pack

JOE SANTORO

RENO – The Nevada Wolf Pack knew exactly what went wrong Saturday afternoon at Peccole Park.

“Their guy did exactly the opposite of what our guy did,” Wolf Pack coach Gary Powers said after a 14-2 loss to the Fresno State Bulldogs. “He threw strikes down in the zone and stayed ahead in the count. And we were up in the zone and behind in the count. It’s pretty simple.”

Fresno State starter Justin Haley, though, made things very complicated for the Wolf Pack. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-hander from Sacramento had the Pack bats under his control all afternoon, allowing just eight hits, two runs and a walk while striking out nine in eight innings.

The 12-run loss is the biggest this season for the Pack and its largest since a 12-run (15-3) loss at UC Irvine in the second game of the 2011 season on Feb. 19, 2011. It is also the Pack’s biggest loss at home in nearly five years, since a 17-4 loss at Peccole Park in the title game of the Western Athletic Conference tournament on May 27, 2007.

“He (Haley) was nothing special,” second baseman Joe Kohan said. “He just came at us with a lot of fastball around the zone. It was no secret what he was doing.”

Haley, making just his seventh start this year in 16 appearances, lowered his earned run average to 3.03 and raised his record to 5-3. He also has 60 strikeouts in 62.1 innings.

Recommended Stories For You

“We were on him,” Kohan said. “We did strike out quite a bit but a lot of our hits and the balls we put in play were hit hard.”

Kohan had one of those hard-hit balls, drilling a triple over the head of center fielder Taylor Tempel in the fifth inning to drive in the only two Pack runs of the afternoon.

“Yeah, we finally got a couple runs off him,” said Kohan, who now leads the Western Athletic Conference with five triples. “That was a good feeling. That could have been a little motivation for us. But we didn’t do much after that.”

The Pack got singles from Jay Anderson and Brooks Klein in the first but Kewby Meyer rolled into a double play to end the inning. Klein doubled with one out in the sixth but never advanced. Meyer also bounced into an inning-ending double play with two runners on base in the eighth.

Klein, now hitting .340, had three hits off Haley.

“He just threw a lot of fastballs with a little sink on them and just pounded the strike zone all day,” Klein said. “He threw a few changeups but I was just up there looking for fastballs.”

Haley struck out the side in order in the seventh and retired 10 hitters in a row from the first through the fourth inning.

“He was able to throw his fastball where he wanted and when you can do that it makes all the difference in the world,” Klein said.

Haley had the benefit of pitching with a lead all afternoon. The Bulldogs gave him a 4-0 lead before he overstepped on the mound. The closest the Pack came was 6-2 after Kohan’s triple but Fresno State made it 9-2 in the seventh. The Bulldogs scored five runs off Pack starter Tyler Wells and nine more off the Pack bullpen.

“Our pitching staff let us down today,” Powers said. “We got within 6-2 but then our pitchers go back out there and give up more runs. That’s demoralizing for an offense.”

Wells struggled with his command from the start. The freshman left-hander allowed four runs on three hits and two walks in the first inning and didn’t make it through the third inning.

“He really struggled to do the things that we know he’s capable of doing,” Powers said. “It’s hard to compete in this league when you are up in the zone all day and pitching behind in the count. You can’t pitch that way in this league and expect to be successful.”

Well, whose earned run average ballooned to 6.47, allowed five hits, five runs and three walks in just 2.2 innings.

Powers said the freshman needs to become more consistent to remain the Saturday starter.

“We’re looking for somebody else to step up and possibly take that away from him,” Powers said. “But right now that’s not happening. We have a couple guys who are out right now (Tim Culligan, Troy Marks) and we need other guys to step forward and show some consistency.”

Bryan Suarez did show some consistency against the Bulldogs, allowing two hits, a walk and a run in 2.2 innings in relief of Wells.

“And how did he do it?” Powers asked. “He kept the ball down in the zone. That’s what you have to do to give yourself a chance to be successful.”

The Wolf Pack, which beat Fresno 8-2 on Friday behind starter Bradey Shipley, is now 23-19 overall this season and 6-5 in the WAC. Fresno State improved to 18-21, 2-6. The three-game series will conclude with a 1 p.m. game on Sunday.

“We still have a chance to win this series,” Powers said. “This league is so balanced and competitive this year. Every game is huge.”