Wolf Pack baseball beats Pacific
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – There is no place like home for the Nevada Wolf Pack baseball team.
Nevada stretched its home winning streak to 11 straight, as four pitchers combined on a five-hitter in a 5-1 nonconference victory over Pacific Tuesday night at Peccole Park.
“We’re playing well at home,” Nevada coach Gary Powers said. “They are comfortable playing here, and they are confident playing at home. That’s important. It goes a long way in how you go about doing your job everyday.”
Keeping that win streak going past this weekend will be extremely tough because perennial powerhouse Fresno State comes to town for single games on Thursday (6 p.m.), Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (1 p.m.).
“Last year they dominated us,” reliever Kody Keroher said. “They embarrassed us when we went down there (for the tournament). We have to have the intensity that we had against UNLV. We need to bring everything we have.”
“Without question (it’s big),” Powers said. “We’re getting into the meat of our schedule. We have two real tough road trips out of the way. We have two important series’ back-to-back at home (Fresno State and San Jose State). We have to step up and rise to the challenge.”
Nevada’s relievers certainly stepped up to the challenge, as Jordan Salazar, Mat Keplinger and Keroher combined to limit Pacific to just one hit over the final five innings after starter Ben Colton left after allowing a run and four hits over four innings.
Keplinger and Salazar pitched an inning apiece, and Keroher, who struggled at New Mexico State (2 runs, 3 hits in 1 inning), retired all nine hitters he faced.
“A lot of guys contributed,” Powers said. “A lot of guys contributed in a lot of different ways.”
Keplinger was headed for a redshirt year, but Powers told him he was needed after Jarad Mitchell broke a finger on his pitching hand in Hawai’i trying to field a ball. Keplinger has pitched two perfect innings since being added to the active roster.
“They (the coaches) talked to me the week of the Buffalo games, and asked me what I thought,” Keplinger said. “I told them I’d be ready to go whenever they needed me to go.
“I wasn’t hurt or anything (early on). There were a couple of older guys that were doing a really good job. Jared was doing a good job. I told coach (Stan) Stulte two weeks ago that I would do whatever was best for the team.”
Powers stressed that it’s important to have a left-hander coming out of the bullpen to stabilize games, and if his first two appearances are any indication, Keplinger looks like he can get the job done.
Keroher said that he’s stronger mentally this year, and that’s helped him bounce back from two rough WAC weekends where he’s allowed five runs and seven hits in 1 2/3 innings. Not exactly how you want your closer throwing.
“I was falling (off) and not throwing strikes,” Keroher said. “I’ve been working with coach Stulte and coach Stew Colton on mechanics.”
With the way Nevada pitchers threw, they didn’t need a tremendous amount of help from the offense. Nevada hitters collected 10 hits, two each by hot-hitting Daniel Eastham and Shaun Kort, who raised their averages to .338 and .363, respectively.
UOP took a 1-0 lead in the third when Josh Powers singled and scored on Joe Oliveira’s double in the left-center field gap. Ben Colton retired the next two hitters to get out of the jam.
Colton, who has given Nevada two solid Tuesday starts, escaped serious trouble in the fourth when the Tigers loaded the bases on an error, walk and single by Mike Walker. John Joines flied to right and Colton fanned Murray and Powers to end the inning.
“To his credit, he pitched his way out of it,” Powers said. “That was at a key point of the game. It helped put us in position to win the game; gave us a chance to succeed.”
Nevada, which had been blanked over four innings, took the lead with two runs in its half of the fifth thanks to the wildness of reliever Erik Hamren, who walked David Ciarlo and Jason Sadoian. Shawn Kort dropped a bunt down the third-base line to load the bases. Terry Walsh walked, forcing in a run.
Exit Hamren. Enter Andrew Mintun. Krukow hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Sadoian for a 2-1 lead.
Former WNCC standout Tyson Jaquez hit a bloop double to right, and was replaced on the basepaths by Trevor O’Sullivan. Chris Siewert followed with a bloop single to right, sending O’Sullivan to third. Ciarlo followed with a groundball up the middle, and Powers forced Siewert at second, and O’Sullivan scored. Sadoian followed with a double that one-hopped the wall, scoring Ciarlo to make it 4-1.
O’Sullivan doubled home a run in the seventh for a 5-1 lead.
Notes: The Pack is having an Easter egg hunt on Saturday at 12:15 prior to the Fresno State game. People that want their kids (middle school and below) to participate in the hunt, must purchase a ticket to the game … Terry Walsh’s seven-game hit streak ended … Powers didn’t play Konrad Schmidt behind the plate. Schmidt has a five-game hitting streak.