Pack baseball faces flame thrower tonight
In a season that promises to be full of twists and turns, challenges and defining moments, the Wolf Pack baseball team has already passed its first test.
“We needed to bounce back,” Wolf Pack coach Gary Powers said of last Sunday morning’s game against the Missouri Tigers in Phoenix. “We played two really, really poor games and needed to turn that around.”
Consider the Pack baseball team officially pointed in the right direction. After getting rocked 12-1 by Missouri Thursday night and 14-2 by Gonzaga on Saturday, the Pack beat the No. 10-ranked Tigers 8-4 on Sunday to finish its first weekend in Phoenix at 2-2.
“The guys did a great job coming back,” Powers said as his team prepared for four games in San Diego this weekend starting tonight (6 p.m.) against the San Diego State Aztecs. “We didn’t get back (to the hotel) until around 11 p.m. (on Saturday) night and we had to get back for a 10 a.m. game the next morning. It was a tough deal. It was a real challenge to their character and I’m proud of them.”
The Wolf Pack left Phoenix with a bushel full of positives and negatives.
The bad news: The hitters hit just .232 in the four games, striking out 33 times and walking just six times. The defense committed an alarming total of 15 errors, leading to 10 unearned runs. The pitching staff walked 35 hitters and tossed 11 wild pitches.
“Offensively, we weren’t very good at all,” said Powers, who is now just three victories shy of his 800th career win. “We need to get better. But that will come. We just need to get more at-bats for our guys.”
The good news? Newcomer Brett Hart went 5-for-14 (.357) in right field, former Carson High and Western Nevada outfielder Aaron Henry was 3-for-8 with a homer, second baseman Matt Bowman hit two homers, Sammy Miller wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam to save the win over Missouri and Brock Stassi struck out six in five innings to beat the Tigers. The Pack also outhomered the opposition 6-1 in the four games.
“We’re a young team and we’re trying to find out a lot about a lot of people,” Powers said. “I just think that last week a few guys had some jitters to start the year and we should be past that now. We’ll have to be better this week if we expect to win some games.”
The Wolf Pack (2-2) will face another early-season test tonight against San Diego State and head coach Tony Gwynn. The Aztecs (2-1) will send right-hander Stephen Strasburg and his 100-mph fastball to the mound.
“I haven’t seen him myself but I’ve certainly heard about him,” Powers said. “I heard he’s been clocked at 103 miles per hour.”
Strasburg, the only college player on the U.S. Olympic team this past summer in Beijing, is being toyted already as the likely No. 1 pick by the Washington Nationals in this June’s major league amateur draft. “He’s as good a pitcher as we’ve seen in this draft in the last 10 or 15 years,” Nationals general manager Jim Bowden told the Washington Post recently.
Strasburg, who led the nation with 133 strikeouts last year, gained national attention last April 11 by striking out 23 in a 1-0 victory over Utah. All 23 strikeouts can now be viewed on YouTube.com. The junior fanned 11 in 5.2 innings in his first start of the year last Friday against Bethune-Cookman.
“He not only has a great fastball, he also has great movement on that fastball,” Powers said. “But that’s not all he does. He also has a great slider and curveball. But that’s OK. This is a tremendous opportunity for our guys.”
The Wolf Pack will counter on the mound with either Derek Achelpohl or Beau Witsoe today against San Diego State. Stephen Bautista will start Friday (10 a.m.) against Kansas State (2-1) followed by Chris Garcia Saturday (2 p.m.) against San Diego (2-1) and Stassi on Sunday (11 a.m.), also against San Diego. Tonight’s game will be broadcast on 1450-AM with the last three games of the weekend on 630-AM.