Nevada moves on to WAC tournament finals
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Alive and kicking.
Nevada reached the championship game after thrilling wins over Hawai’i, 8-6 in 11 innings, and San Jose State, 11-9, Saturday night at Peccole Park on Day 3 of the WAC Baseball Tournament.
Nevada, 35-25, plays undefeated Fresno State, 35-27, at noon. Nevada must knock off the Bulldogs twice to win the title and secure the conference’s automatic berth into the 64-team NCAA Tournament.
The two games had a little bit of everything – clutch relief pitching by Matt Renfree in both games and Mario Rivera in the nightcap, two outstanding throws to home by Terry Walsh and Nick Sansone in the second game and a career-high five-RBI game by Jason Rodriguez in the second game.
“The kids showed a lot of character,” Nevada coach Gary Powers said. “It was a hard, long day. I tip my hat to them. The character they showed and the perseverance. I’m proud of them.”
Powers said he was undecided on who would start the first game against Fresno State. Dan Eastham and Jordan Salazar have yet to pitch in the tournament, though Powers could turn back to Ben Colton, who scuffled in his two-inning effort Saturday.
“We (the coaching staff) have a lot to talk about,” Powers said. “We don’t have a lot of choices.”
One guy who probably won’t pitch is Matt Renfree, who posted a win and save in 51Ú3 innings of work.
“I felt loose; no tightness in my elbow or shoulder,” Renfree said. “I felt really good. I haven’t done that since high school.”
Just as they did against Hawai’i earlier in the day, the Wolf Pack scored two in two in the fourth and two in the fifth to snap a 6-all tie and take control of the game against the Spartans.
In the fourth, Jason Sadoian singled and reached second when Jason Rodriguez’s ground ball was booted. Shaun Kort popped out and Konrad Schmidt walked to load the bases. Baker Krukow followed with a groundball to second. Marcus McKimmy flipped to second to force Schmidt. However, Kyle Bellows’ throw to first was wild, allowing Sadoian and Rodriguez to score for an 8-6 lead.
In the fifth, Chris Siewert hit a one-out single. After Sadoian struck out, Rodriguez slammed an opposite-field homer to left for a 10-6 lead.
“He’s been doing that all year,” Powers said. “He’s done a nice job of solidifying the second spot in the order. He’s at his best in tough spots.”
Mario Rivera, 5-1, who had came on with one out in the third and pitched well, left in the ninth after one out. Rivera struck out four, walked one and allowed only six hits in a career-best 62Ú3 innings.
After the game, Rivera found out that his mother was taken to a local hospital after complaining of chest pains.
Another key to the win over the Spartans were the throws by Walsh and Sansone. Walsh threw out Jason Santich-Hughes at home to end a three-run uprising in the second. In the sixth, Sansone threw out Chris Balatico at home to keep Nevada’s lead at 10-7.
“It made the difference in the game,” Powers said. “We threw out two runners and we won by two runs. Big plays by both those guys.”
GRITTY EFFORT SUBDUES ‘BOWS
Hawai’i’s Landon Hernandez tied the game at 6 with a two-run homer in the ninth off Renfree, who improved to 5-0 with a stellar 42Ú3-inning effort.
The game remain deadlocked at 6 until the 11th when Sansone was hit by a Jayson Kramer pitch.
Tyler Davis came on and quickly worked ahead 0-2 of David Ciarlo, who singled to right-center field, sending Sansone to third. Chris Siewert, who missed Friday’s game with an injured finger, slammed a single between third and short to give Nevada a 7-6 lead.
After a force out, lefty Nicholas Rhodes came on to face the left-handed hitting Rodriguez, who spoiled that strategy with a run-scoring single and an 8-6 lead. Shaun Kort hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Renfree struck out Brandon Haislet looking, but gave up a single to Vinnie Catricala and an infield single to Hernandez.
DuPree followed with a hard groundball to Ciarlo, who turned it into a game-ending double play.
“I felt bad for him (Renfree) when he gave up that homer,” Powers said. “It was a credit to him that he threw two great innings after that.”
It was a disappointing finish for Rainbow coach Mike Trapasso.
“I’m proud of the way our guys came back,” Trapasso said. “It’s been our Achilles heel the last month, not coming up with big hits and not finishing games.”
In the Nevada-Hawai’i game, the Wolf Pack jumped out to a 6-0 lead after five innings on the strength of a two-run single and run-scoring triple by Terry Walsh, a key error by Justin Frash that led to two runs and a sacrifice fly by David Ciarlo.
Kyle Howe, who allowed only two hits through the first five innings, was nicked for four runs and six hits in the sixth.
Kevin MacDonald delivered a two-run single, and Brandon Haislet and Justin Frash also delivered run-scoring hits. The damage could have been more, but Matt Roquemore made a baserunning mistake.
“The heat got to him fast,” Powers said. “He had some tough luck.”
• Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling 881-1281