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Nevada softball program feeling growing pains

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

Nevada’s softball program is still experiencing the growing pains that come with a new program.

Case in point was this past weekend. The Pack swept UTEP in a three-game series behind two Jordan McPherson wins and one from Tiffany Hoeft.

Nevada tried to step up in class Sunday with a doubleheader against the University of Washington and was pounded 22-1 and 14-0. The Huskies have a strong program, but no doubt that’s little solace for coach Michelle Gardner. No doubt she expected a better showing from her players.

Still, with three series’ left on the schedule, the Pack is 7-2. That’s not bad, though Nevada has yet to play Fresno State.

“I’d like to be a little better at this point,” Gardner said. “A lot of kids have stepped up. A lot of kids have done a great job.

I don’t think we can take anything for granted. Obviously we’re in good shape, but we still have the toughest part of our schedule left. San Jose State and Tulsa don’t have great conference records (so far), but they are good teams.”

The Jamie Southern-led Fresno State squad is 8-1 in conference, followed by Nevada and Hawai’i (10-5). Southern, the Bulldogs’ ace pitcher, has an 0.53 ERA and has 106 career wins.

The Pack’s series against Fresno State is critical, because the only way Nevada has a shot at making the NCAAs is to win the WAC. And, Gardner knows that when you play Fresno State, you play the mystique and tradition the program has built up over the years.

“She (Southern) is awesome,” Gardner said. “Seriously, she’s very, very good.

“Absolutely there is mystique with them. They have been a phenomenal program year after year. They are always a top-25 team. Margie (Wright, FresnoState coach) has done a great job there.”

PACK PLAYERS DRAFTED

Talib Wise and Harvey Dahl were the only two Nevada players to sign NFL contracts over the weekend, though neither was drafted.

Dahl, the Pack’s 6-foot-5, 300-pound tackle was signed by the Dallas Cowboys, who said they plan on shifting him to guard. Wise, a wide receiver-running back, signed with the Chicago Bears, a team he watched as a youth.

Chris Berry and Chance Kretschmer were still waiting to hear from teams as of Monday morning.

In all, six Western Athletic Conference players were drafted.

Fresno State’s outstanding offensive tackle Logan Mankins was taken in the first round by the defending champion New England Patriots. Ryan Moats, the outstanding running back from Louisiana Tech, was drafted in the third round by the Philadelphia Eagles. Moats is the first running back that the Eagles have drafted that high since Bryan Westbrook in the early 90s.

Chris Carr, former McQueen and Boise State star, signed a free-agent contract with the Oakland Raiders, who need help at safety. Carr told the Associated Press that he would also be used as a return specialist.

BASEBALL PLAYERS HONORED

Rice first baseman-pitcher Joe Savery and Hawai’i’s Stephen Bryant were named the WAC’s top player and pitcher for their performance last weekend.

Savery, a freshman, hit .545 with a homer and four RBI in two games against Louisiana Tech. He also picked up the pitching win on Sunday by throwing a complete-game five-hitter. He is hitting .396 and has a 1.94 ERA.

Savery beat out Fresno State’s Beau Mills, Hawai’i shortstop Joe Spiers and Dayton freshman Matt Bowman of Nevada for the honor.

Bryant, who pitched at Feather River College last year, threw 8 2/3 innings in a 1-0 win against San Jose State. He allowed two hits, a walk and struck out four. He is 6-3 with a 2.78 ERA this year.

NEVADA NETTERS

RECOGNIZED

Nevada junior Adam Jooste (Cape Town, South Africa) was selected as a second-team all-WAC singles player after going 21-9 this season. The 21 wins was the fifth-highest in school history and puts Jooste at 45, which is sixth-highest in school history.

Jooste and Milos Popovic (Belgrade, Yugoslavia) were named to the all-WAC second team for doubles. The Pack duo went 13-11, 4-3 in the fall and 9-9 in the spring.

FRESNO STATE GETS

BASKETBALL TRANSFER

According to a story in the Hanford Sentinel, former Hanford High star Jenny Thigpin will play her final season of college at Fresno State.

Adrian Wiggins, who was hired as interim coach after Stacy Johnson-Klein was fired for a plethora of violations, made the announcement recently.

Thigpin, a 6-foot-3 forward, helped the Arizona State Sun Devils to a 24-10 record last season and the school’s first Sweet 16 appearance in 22 years.

Thigpin won’t be eligible to play for Fresno State until the 2006-07 season. She can participate in all team practices.

n Darrell Moody can be reached at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling 881-1281