Nevada baseball finishes off sweep vs. Hawai’i
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – One game at a time. The time-worn cliche is something Nevada Wolf Pack baseball coach Gary Powers keeps stressing.
Powers doesn’t want to look ahead to the WAC Tournament later this month, nor does he like to talk much about Nevada’s chances of landing an NCAA at-large berth if it doesn’t win the conference tournament.
“I’m just trying to figure out a way to beat San Jose State (this Friday night),” Powers said after the Wolf Pack completed a three-game sweep with a 7-2 win over Hawai’i behind the eight inning, six-hit effort by Kyle Howe Monday night at Peccole Park.
The win, Nevada’s 11th in its last 15 games, improved the Pack’s mark to 31-22 overall and 14-7 in conference entering the final weekend.
Hawai’i dropped to 9-12 overall and 31-22 overall. Nevada trails conference-leading Fresno State by two games with three to play.
Powers talked after the game about Nevada’s chemistry, and how it has come together in the last month. Of course, winning cures any problems.
“This team is starting to care for one another,” Powers said. “All the guys are contributing in different ways. I don’t know if we’ve ever had so many guys contribute in our role playing. We have 15 or 16 position guys that have assumed different roles at different times. Early in the season, we had to pound some philosophies into them. We had so many new players and we were on the road a lot. We haven’t had one negative attitude on this team. We’ve learned a lot of lessons. There’s a fine line between winning and losing.”
Powers talked briefly about the possibility of an at-large bid. He noted that the Pack’s chances get better with every win, and with every loss suffered by other teams.
“We’d like to take care of things ourselves,” Powers said. “That’s been our motto all year long.”
And, if the Pack keeps hitting and pitching like it did against Hawai’i in this series, a post-season championship is a real possibility because Nevada is playing the best baseball of anybody in the WAC.
Nevada hitters averaged 10 hits a game in the three-game series, compiling a team average of .309 against the best pitching staff in the conference.
And, the starting pitching was strong. In 21 2/3 innings, the trio of Ryan Rodriguez, Rodney Scurry and Howe combined for 23 strikeouts and only four walks. They allowed 24 hits and eight earned runs.
“All three put it together this weekend,” Powers said. “Kyle did a really nice job. He was consistent and did good job of moving the ball in and out, and he kept it down in the zone.”
Howe struggled in the first, giving up a run after two batters when Jon Hee singled and scored on Derek DuPree’s double just inside the first-base line. DuPree reached third with one out, but Howe got a strikeout and groundout to end the inning.
The Rainbows added another run in the third when Hee hit a double to deep left that went off the glove of Matt Suleski at the fence. Hee scored on a two-out double by Sanchez.
Howe, who set a career record for strikeouts with nine, allowed only two hits over the next five innings before being relieved by Matt Renfree to start the ninth.
“After the first inning, I settled down and started hitting my spots,” said Howe, who evened his record at 3-3 and lowered his ERA to 4.83. “I talk to Rigo (Ryan Rodriguez) and Rodney, and that helps me a lot. I ask them what they saw; what weaknesses they might have picked up on.”
Nevada hitters, as they did on Sunday came back from the deficit and took the lead with two in the sixth and five more in the seventh.
In the sixth, David Ciarlo reached on an infield single to start the inning. He moved to second on a single by Jason Rodriguez and scored on another single by Shaun Kort. Konrad Schmidt flied to right, and Rodriguez trotted home with the tying run.
“We did a nice job of situational hitting,” Powers said. “We stayed the course. We finally got to him (Hawai’i starter Marc Rodrigues). We got him to get the ball up and took advantage of it.”
Rodrigues left after retiring one batter and giving up singles to Suleski and Chris Siewert to start the seventh. Ciarlo, who raised his average to .279, singled to left to score Suleski with the go-ahead run to make it 3-2. Jason Sadoian walked to load the bases.
Up stepped the hot-hitting Rodriguez, and he didn’t disappoint the partisan crowd. The Pack third baseman slammed a three-run double off Rainbow closer Tyler Davis, who yielded three runs and three hits in 1/3 of an inning. After Kort rolled out, Schmidt blasted a run-scoring double to give the Pack a 7-2 lead.
Rodriguez went 4-for-11 in the series with a homer and five RBI. He raised his average to .301.
“I feel good at the plate,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been swinging the bat well for a while. I’m getting hits with runners on base. I’m hitting a lot of balls on the barrel, and not just getting little bloops.”
Howe allowed one batter to reach base and turned the ball over to Matt Renfree, who worked a scoreless ninth.