Wolf Pack rallies past Loyola Marymount
RENO – Alex Rangel made his Peccole Park debut a memorable one on Friday afternoon.
The University of Nevada third baseman sparkled with the glove and delivered a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning that lifted the Wolf Pack to a home opening 4-3 victory against Loyola Marymount.
Rangel’s double erased a 3-2 deficit as Nevada improved its season record to 12-6 in the opener of a three-game non-conference series.
The two teams play again today, with Carson City’s Darrell Rasner (5-0) scheduled to pitch for the Wolf Pack in a 1 p.m. contest at Peccole Park.
Friday’s final score was identical to the last meeting between Nevada and Loyola, a game the Wolf Pack won 4-3 thanks to a two-run ninth inning rally in the NCAA Tournament Stanford subregional on May 29, 1999. This time, Nevada rode a complete game from pitcher Chad Qualls and a two-run eighth inning rally to snap Loyola’s (9-4) three-game win streak.
“He (Qualls) had a great game,” said Rangel, in his first season at Nevada after transferring from Arizona Western Junior College. “That’s how he’s been all year. He keeps us in games and we figure it’s up to us to get him some runs. Fortunately, we did that today.”
Rangel also came up with a backhand stop of a grounder down the third base line to end the third inning and started a double play to end the game.
Qualls (4-0), a senior right-hander, allowed nine hits over nine innings, struck out three and walked none.
The Wolf Pack, which had played 17 straight games on the road, came back after trailing 2-0 and 3-2.
Matt Maguire bounced a single through the left side of the infield to lead off the eighth. Ryan Church laid down a sacrifice bunt and Maguire beat the throw to second, giving Nevada runners at first and second with nobody out. Loyola lifted starting pitcher Billy Traber – who allowed six hits and struck out nine – but cleanup hitter Matt Ortiz greeted reliever Chris Gray with a bunt down the third base line for a base hit that loaded the bases.
Loyola then brought in James Clelland, who induced Don Price to hit a grounder to second for a force out at home. But then Rangel drilled a 2-1 pitch off the center field screen to bring Church and Ortiz home with the tying and go-ahead runs.
“I was looking for something high that I could drive, and he left a curve ball up,” Rangel said.
“It felt great to win our opener, especially this being my first game here,” he continued. “We’ve been out for a month and we’ve heard nothing but insults.”
Joe Inglett put Nevada on the scoreboard in the sixth when he dashed home on a Ryan Church sacrifice fly. The Wolf Pack pulled even at 2-2 in the seventh when No. 9 hitter Joey Herrera slapped a two-out single over second base to bring Josh Laidlaw home.
Loyola went back on top in the eighth when Scott Walter dropped a two-out double down the left field line and then scored on Jeff Walker’s single.
The Wolf Pack managed to come back again.
“It was an exciting game,” said senior reserve catcher John Glover, a Carson City product. I thought we played well for nine innings. That’s what coach (Gary Powers) asks us to do – play hard for nine innings. That’s where we try to beat our opponents, in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.”
Laidlaw went 3-for-4 to lead Nevada’s eight-hit attack. Ortiz, whose eighth-inning sacrifice fly aided Nevada’s regional win over Loyola last year, was also 2-for-4.
“We always like to win at home,” Glover said, referring to the opening day turnout of 1,235. “Our fans are always great, and we had a great opening day crowd.”
Rasner, a freshman right-hander from Carson High, will try to extend his perfect record for the Wolf Pack today.
“He’s dynamite. He’s really fun to watch,” Glover said of Rasner. “I think he’s surprised a lot of people, and the thing about him is his composure. He doesn’t look like a freshman out there. He acts more like he’s been around here four or five years. If he gets in a jam, he just bows his neck and gets tougher.”