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Nevada baseball falls apart

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Editor

RENO – Nevada coach Gary Powers didn’t mince any words after the Wolf Pack’s latest defensive meltdown.

Nevada made only two physical errors and misplayed another ball into a triple, but they proved huge when Pacific cashed in with some big hits en route to a 15-5 win over the Pack Tuesday afternoon at Peccole Park.

The loss dropped Nevada to 17-13 overall heading into this weekend’s WAC showdown with first-place San Jose State at Peccole Park.

“Our defense at critical times has been horrible,” Powers said. “We have struggled on defense. We have to get people to understand they have to be focused on defense. I’ve seen too much of this (errors) too many times and too often with this team. We can’t make plays when we need to.”

The most critical miscue came in the top of the eighth. Chris Scott started the inning, but soon gave way to Jim McCarthy (0-1) after back-to-back singles.

McCarthy gave up a single to John Joines to load the bases and was relieved by Matt Renfree. Will Brindza hit a sacrifice fly to make it 5-4 and Ryan Wilmer followed with what appeared to be a double play ball to shortstop Robert Marcial, who booted it, loading the bases.

Jesse Kovacs made the Pack pay when he lofted a fly ball to left field that barely cleared the fence for a grand slam. It went downhill from there. Renfree gave up three straight singles and then Jerin Harper hammered a three-run homer to make it 12-5. Renfree allowed one more hit before being yanked in favor of ex-Reno standout Chris Rickey.

Rickey walked a batter, retired a batter and then gave up a run-scoring single to Wilmer to make it 13-5. When the smoke cleared Pacific had rung up 10 hits and sent 16 batters to the plate.

Pacific tacked on two more runs in the ninth. Nevada went down quietly in the last two innings.

“In this ballpark goofy things can happen, and happen in a hurry,” Pacific coach Ed Sprague said. “Last year it went the other way here. We had a five or six-run lead and lost.

“He (Kovacs) got it deep in the zone. He hit it on the barrel. He got it up in the jet stream. This is a tough place to play.”

Focus may be a problem for the Pack. This is the second straight nonconference game that they have lost. Nevada made eight errors in a 11-8 loss to Cal last Tuesday.

“We have to start playing better ball,” said Pack first baseman Ben Mummy, who went 2 for 5 and drove in two runs. “It’s not for lack of effort. Maybe focus needs to be highlighted. This team wants it.”

The Pack will have to convince Powers of that.

“Our entire focus except for (starting pitcher Steve Taylor) and a couple of others on offense was somewhere other than the baseball field,” Powers said.

Taylor, who has had some disappointing efforts in recent weeks, did a super job in his 4 2/3 innings of work. Had it not been for faulty fielding, he would have left with the lead and had a chance at a win.

Pacific tied the game in the fourth with three runs. Right fielder Ryan Sharman misplayed a two-out fly ball by Adam Ching into a two-run triple. Twice Sharman got twisted around, and the ball fell untouched. Freshman David Ciarlo mishandled Matt Berezay’s hard-hit groundball, allowing Ching to score. Taylor was yanked at that point, but certainly deserved a better fated.

Nevada regained the lead, but lost it in the eighth.

“He threw great for us,” Mummy said. “Even that inning he should have gotten out of (without a run).”

Added Powers, “A ground ball to second and a fly to right and he shuts them out for five innings. He did a great job. We needed Taylor to establish himself. He may start to see action on the weekend.”

Notes: Dayton’s Matt Bowman and third baseman Eric Newman, two of the lesser-known hitters in the lineup, each singled home a run. Bowman is 5 for his last 12 and Newman 4 for his last 14 … Jacob Butler celebrated his WAC Player of the Week award with a solo homer in the seventh that gave Nevada an ill-fated 5-3 lead.