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Nevada breaks out brooms vs. Bulldogs

Nevada breaks out brooms vs. Bulldogs

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – It was a perfect weekend for Nevada.

The Wolf Pack completed a sweep in the opening weekend of the Western Athletic Conference baseball season by erasing three-run deficits in both games of the doubleheader to knock off Louisiana Tech, 7-6 and 6-4, Saturday at Peccole Park.

“It was exciting to start the WAC at home against a team picked to finish ahead of us [and win],” said Nevada designated hitter Terry Walsh, whose eighth-inning double tied the second game at 4. “We pitched well, played solid defense and hit the ball. If we take care of business at home and play OK on the road … that’s what the WAC champion has done [in the past].”

Nevada, 4-0 in the WAC, 12-8 overall, has shown its poise throughout the season, and it was evident with the two come-from-behind wins. There never seems to be panic or concern, just a business-like approach to things.

“Our No. 3 and No. 4 hitters struggled today [in the first game], but we picked them up,” Nevada coach Gary Powers said, alluding to Jason Rodriguez and Shaun Kort, who went a combined 1-for-9 in the opener, but came up with clutch hits in the second game. “That’s the kind of team we have. They play hard for one another.”

One thing that stood out in Saturday’s sweep was Nevada’s bullpen. Derek Achelpohl threw 6 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to key the first-game victory and win his first game of the season, and freshman Brock Stassi and senior Mario Rivera each threw two hitless innings in the nightcap with Rivera earning his first win of the season, too.

Achelpohl, who came in trailing 6-3 in the top of the third, gave up a hit to the first batter he faced but settled down and allowed six baserunners over the next six innings.

“It was tough, coming right out of the bullpen without much time to warm up,” Achelpohl said. “I was a starter last year [in junior college]. It takes me a while [to get ready]. It takes me a couple of innings before my curveball works. I could hear the Tech dugout and they were telling their hitters that I didn’t have my curveball. It took some time.”

Achelpohl, who opened the season by giving up seven runs and four hits in one inning against UC Irvine, lowered his earned run average from 10.38 to 6.00 with his brilliant performance.

“It was an unbelievable performance,” Powers said. “If he doesn’t do what he did, we don’t win. He stabilized the game and gave us a chance to win.”

Nevada took the lead for good in the fifth, scoring four times against starter Luke Burnett and reliever Andrew Lassere.

With one out, Kort blooped a single to left and Walsh drew a walk. Lassere came on and gave up a double to Mike Hale that scored Kort and sent Walsh to third. Hale moved to third on a single by hot-hitting Kevin Rodland and scored on a balk. Rodland moved to second on the balk, stole third and scored on a drive to right by Tyson Jaquez to make it 7-6.

Achelpohl allowed only one runner as far as second base in the final four innings and he finished with a career-best eight strikeouts.

In the nightcap, the Pack ran into Jericho Jones, who allowed a run and only four hits over 6 1/3 innings.

Jones, who retired nine straight batters at one point, gave up a solo homer to Walsh in the fifth which cut Tech’s lead to 2-1. It was Walsh’s second homer of the season.

“He was challenging our guys, and he got the ball up,” Walsh said.

Nevada starter Dan Eastham, who had scattered seven hits through the first four innings, ran into problems in the fifth when Tech pushed across two runs to up its lead to 4-1.

Albie Goulder singled and Patrick Thomas walked. Eastham exited in favor of Stassi, who allowed a bunt single and sacrifice fly before retiring the side.

Nevada finally knocked Jones out of the game in the seventh though it didn’t score, as reliever Aaron Lorio, who entered the contest with an 0.77 ERA, struck out pinch hitter Jacob Kaup with two outs and the bases jammed.

A baserunning gaffe by Tech kept the game at 4-1 entering the last of the eighth. Louisiana Tech’s Adam Cobb hit an infield single, and Chris Kersten tried to score from second, but was gunned down by Kort for the third out.

Maybe that play sparked Nevada and maybe it didn’t. Either way, Nevada’s bats went red-hot against Lorio.

Matt Bowman walked and scored on Rodriguez’s double off the fence in right to make it 4-2. On a 1-2 pitch, Kort followed with a double to right to drive home Rodriguez. Walsh made it a trifecta with a game-tying two-bagger to left.

Lorio left in favor of Alex Richard, who didn’t fare much better. Richard wild-pitched home a run and then Rodland hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-4.

Tech’s Drew Bunting hit a one-out double off Rivera in the ninth, but the Pack’s stocky right-hander struck out the next two batters to end the game.

NOTES: Bulldogs coach Wade Simoneaux showed his frustration when he was ejected by plate umpire Dave Yeast during Nevada’s five-run rally in the eighth … Jaquez extended his hitting streak to 10 games when he singled in game one… Nevada returns to action Tuesday when it visits arch-rival UNLV for a 4 p.m. game. The rivals are playing two single games against each other this season.

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281