Nevada baseball beats Utah Valley State
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – There were examples of persistence paying off all over Peccole Park on Saturday.
First, University of Nevada first baseman Dan Eastham hit his first career home run–a towering, 400-plus foot bomb over the left center-field wall–in the bottom of the seventh inning against Utah Valley State.
Then a longtime Wolf Pack baseball fan, known for sitting atop his R.V. outside that same left center-field wall and swinging his long-poled fishnet at homers, finally caught one, snagging Nevada pinch-hitter Brian Joynt’s first homer of the season in the bottom of the eighth inning.
And most important Nevada, which had lost eight of its last nine games, broke its four-game losing streak with an 11-5 win over the Wolverines before an announced crowd of 857.
The Wolf Pack hit a total of three home runs and outhit the Wolverines, 12-10, to gain a split in its first-ever series with the Division-I independent team heading into today’s 1 p.m. game.
“(Nevada coach Gary Powers) said that we should stay within ourselves, put our foot down and put the ball in play,” said Pack right fielder Shawn Scobee, whose third-inning grand slam put Nevada up 4-1. “When your pitchers throw strikes and you put the ball into play, good things happen.”
Especially for Scobee, who also doubled in Dayton graduate Matt Bowman in the eighth inning to make it 11-5. The third-inning shot over the left-field wall was Scobee’s second grand slam of the year and his 31st career homer, moving him past Rob Richie (1984-87) into sixth place on the Pack’s all-time list.
“It doesn’t mean much to me,” Scobee said of his climb up Nevada’s home run chart. “I just look at me compared to other people and our team compared to other teams. I would like to have 31 over (Andy) Dominique’s (season record of 30). That’s the only one I care about.”
The Wolf Pack improved to 16-20, scored a total of seven runs over the course of the third and fourth innings, got a scrappy start out of Travis Sutton (4-2), and 3 2/3 innings of one-hit, scoreless relief from Matt Renfree (who got the save) to put away the Wolverines, who fell to 13-28 overall.
“It felt good. My arm felt good. I kept the ball down in the zone and got ahead of (the batters),” said Renfree, who entered the game with a 7-5 lead, with runners on first and third, before getting Brad Hales to pop up to him and Nick Connor to fly out to second.
“If those two runners scored, it would have got (the Wolverines) all fired up and they could’ve won this game,” he said. “I just came in a tried to throw strikes and get fly balls to get out of the inning.”
Nevada’s defense was error-free and its offense kept the Wolverines at bay. Scobee finished 2-for-4, with 5 RBI, center fielder Durrell Williams went 2-for-4, with an RBI and scored one run and Eastham went 3-for-5, scoring two runs and knocking in one.
Shortstop Ryan Foley also had an impressive day, going 2-for-2 and scoring three runs as he continues to recover from a broken right index finger.
“When I get a shot I try swing the bat and put the ball in play,” said Foley, who along with second baseman Leo Radkowksi, scored on Utah Valley State’s only error in the fourth to give the Pack a 7-3 lead. “I’ve been getting some practice and rhythm at the plate. It’s pretty tough to get it back. It’s nice.”
The Wolverines took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second on a leadoff homer by right fielder Kade Boyer, but was reduced to trying unsuccessfully to play catch-up after Scobee’s blast.
A two-run shot by Dan Bulow shrank the Pack’s lead to 4-3 in the fourth, but was answered by a Radkowski RBI-single in the bottom of the inning, which preceded UVS’s costly two-run error.
Chris Benson and Canyon Vance each had run-scoring hits to draw the Wolverines to within 7-5, but Renfree shut them down the rest of the way.
UVS starter Kalen Parsons (2-8) took the loss, giving up seven runs (five of them earned) and six hits in 3 1/3 innings of work. He was relieved by Brett Guerrero, who also lasted 3 1/3, allowing two runs and three hits.
Reliever Marcus Moore went 1 1/3 and surrendered three runs and two hits.
Although he gave up nine hits and five earned runs in 5 1/3 innings of work, Sutton kept the Pack in the game.
“I thought he battled,” Powers said of Sutton. “(Utah Valley State) is a very good, mistake-hitting team. They made some good adjustments to him. I thought he competed. He put us in the position to win. He did his job and competed from start to finish.”
Foley also scored on a Williams sacrifice fly to make it 8-5 in the sixth to round out the scoring for the Pack, which brought a get-ready-to-rumble attitude, according to Scobee.
“Our thought process is that we’re not going to win a boat-race with anyone,” he said. “We’re in for a fight on the field. Eastham got his first home run, Foley had one of two knocks for us, and Bowman came through in his last bat and had a knock for us.”
Bowman, whose eighth-inning single boosted his team-high batting average to .380, finished 1-for-3, scored two runs and hit safely in his seventh consecutive game, which is second only to Radkowski’s current nine-game hitting streak.
Powers said his team will continue to need the kind of help from the bullpen that Renfree gave it Saturday if it is going to have a shot at the Western Athletic Conference regional tournament, in Fresno, come late-May.
“That was a star performance today by Renfree,” Powers said. “He did a tremendous job. It was good to see that kind of performance coming out of the ‘pen. We’re still in the growing stage. What I hope to do is to finish on a positive note going into the conference tournament. Once you’re there, anything can happen at that point.”
As it witnessed Saturday, persistence sometimes pays off.
NOTES: Pack shortstop David Ciarlo didn’t start for the first time this season…Scobee’s home run was his 13th of the year, tops in the WAC…Next up for Scobee is Matt Ortiz, who hit 33 homers from 1998-00…Dominique holds the all-time record with 62 dingers…Radkowski’s nine-game hitting streak tied Bowman’s season high…Sutton had six strikeouts, his season high.