Nevada baseball dealt with its share of adversity
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – It wasn’t the easiest of seasons for Gary Powers and the Nevada baseball squad.
Nevada finished 26-28 and just a half-game out of third place in the Western Athletic Conference standings when the dust cleared, though it took a nine-game win streak late in the season to accomplish that.
Winning nine of its last 11 games wiped out a lot of the frustrations on and off the field that Nevada had to endure.
“Being able to finish (almost) in third place with everything we went through was good,” Powers said last week. “We accomplished a lot more than people thought we would. We were a bad team there for a while.
“We knew going in that it would be a challenge for us. Going into the season we were the least experienced team in the conference. I thought we’d gain enough experience to go into conference and do the things we need to do.”
The team had to overcome the death of freshman pitcher Steve Masten, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound late in the year, and just overall poor chemistry. Nevada was swept by San Jose State the week of Masten’s death, and they had to scramble to make the post-season tournament.
“That (Masten’s death) came right when we least expected it obviously,” Powers said. “It was too much for us to take. I thought they grew up and finished up as well as could be expected.”
Then there were the internal problems.
Infielder Leo Radkowski was dismissed from the team in late May after a verbal altercation with the coaching staff, and that’s when Nevada went on its nine-game win streak. Freshman catcher Jordan Opdyke was suspended for three games during the season, and wasn’t really popular with his teammates. Not surprisingly, Opdyke will not be with the team next spring.
Powers blamed the chemistry on the Pack’s lack of experienced players. His inexperienced players didn’t handle the team’s adversity well.
“We didn’t have enough older guys,” Powers said. “We only had one guy that played a full year (Shawn Scobee). Matt (Bowman of Dayton) played a half season and he was still only a sophomore. It was too much to ask these guys to step in and compete with Fresno State. Hawai’i was an experienced team with a good pitching staff. San Jose State had improved.
“We lost seven starters, and that’s a lot of guys to have to bring in. You recruit based on physical potential. You don’t know what kind of characters they are.”
Powers admitted that you find out more about players in adverse conditions than you do when a team is going well. When Masten died, Powers said that some of the clubhouse problems had to be put on the back burner while the team dealt with their teammate’s death.
“Once we were finally done, we did what we thought we had to do (with Radkowski),” Powers said. “I hated to see that happen.
“We had better chemistry the last few weeks of the season. Everybody knew their role and accepted their role. The team came together at the end of the season.”
Powers was referring to the seven-game win streak to end the regular season and the wins over San Jose State and Hawai’i in the first two days of the Western Athletic Conference’s post-season tournament.
What the future holds is uncertain. Nevada will return seven of its eight position players who finished the year as starters.
Powers has signed 14 players thus far, and he is still out there scouting talent. Nevada finished the season with 14 position players, and Powers doesn’t want that to happen again.
“It’s hard to create competition that way,” Powers said. “You don’t have guys to challenge the guys ahead of them.”
Powers was forced to keep struggling players in the lineup at times because the Pack’s depth wasn’t there. He hopes that won’t be the case this year.
The big question mark entering next season is pitching. The Pack lost weekend starters Tim Schoeninger and Travis Sutton, leaving just ex-McQueen star Ryan Rodriguez as the only proven starter.
Powers hopes that senior Matt Renfree and junior Steve Taylor, who had elbow and forearm problems in the latter part of this year, will fill those roles.
“They need to step forward,” Powers said. “Steve is going to be a junior and Matt will be a senior. We need these guys to show what they can do.
“I’m talking to three or four other guys, too.”
Powers has signed six new pitchers, including ex-Galena standout Rod Scurry, who just finished his JC career at Sierra College in Rocklin. The other newcomers are JC transfers Mario Rivera and Andy Primas plus high schoolers Jake Ramsey, Shaun Kort and Mat Keplinger.
Powers said that Primas will close for the Pack, inheriting Wesley Dorsett’s old job. Rivera is considered a starter.
Another guy to keep an eye on is Dan Eastham, who played first base and outfield last year. He also threw in four games for Nevada, and has potential to get some serious innings this year.
“We’re trying to develop him as a pitcher,” Powers said. “He’s got arm strength. He has to learn how to pitch.”
One area where Nevada lacks quality depth is catcher. Bake Krukow played extremely well late in the season, but with Opdyke gone, there will be a scramble for the No. 2 job. Powers has signed Nolan Litke, a JC transfer, and the veteran coach hopes he can give the Pack some good innings behind the plate and a little offense.
Powers even mentioned the idea of using Tyson Jaquez, a third baseman from WNCC, and Bowman, who can play second, short, third and outfield, behind the plate at times during the fall season.
Kort, who is only 5-9, also could help the Pack at first base, designated hitter and left field.
Also in the fold for next year are freshmen infielders Cody Fierro, Mikal Garbarino, J.P. Hollywood and JC transfer Jason Rodriguez. The four newcomers should provide that challenge that Powers so desperately covets.
Nick Sansone from Southern Nevada is the lone outfielder thus far recruited by Powers.
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281