by Ryan Suppe
Nevada took two out of three games from UNLV this weekend at Earl E. Wilson Stadium in Las Vegas. The Wolf Pack won on Friday 5-4, lost on Saturday 1-0 and won on Sunday 8-5. After the weekend, Nevada moved into sole possession of first place in the Mountain West but remains just shy of the top-25 national rankings.
Nevada’s victory on Friday was the first time they had beaten UNLV since Feb. 14, 2013 and it was the first time the Rebels have lost a series at home since that same series against the Wolf Pack two years ago. Before the series, UNLV was 41-10 at home the past two seasons.
Friday, the Wolf Pack trailed 4-1 until the seventh inning when it made its comeback. Cameron Rowland started on the mound for Nevada. He pitched five innings and gave up three runs, but it was Las Vegas native Evan McMahan who earned the win after 1 2/3 innings of relief.
Saturday’s 1-0 game was all about UNLV’s Kenny Oakley. He pitched a complete game shutout and handed Nevada its first conference loss of the season. It was the first time the Wolf Pack has been shutout this season, but the game wasn’t a complete loss. Nevada’s Jason Deitrich pitched 6 2/3 innings and allowed the only run of the game.
“His performance, even though we lost, was stellar,” said head coach Jay Johnson. “Deitrich was spectacular on Saturday, which was needed because we needed to use a lot of the bullpen on Sunday to win that game.”
Nevada had to use its bullpen right away on Sunday. The Wolf Pack starter was chased from the game in the bottom of the first after UNLV scored three runs.
McMahan came in for relief, and after a home run from Jordan Pearce in the fifth Nevada took the lead and never gave it back. After the first inning, the Wolf Pack used four pitchers who gave up just two runs combined. Closer Adam Whitt earned his seventh save of the season and sealed the win in the rubber-match of the road series.
For Johnson, playing in Las Vegas is about more than wins, losses and MW standings.
“There’s a lot of good players down there, a lot of good high school coaches, and as much exposure as we can get down there we want it,” Johnson said.
Winning in Las Vegas means winning in front of future recruits. Johnson and UNLV head coach Tim Chambers probably have their eye on quite a few of the same players.
Nevada freshman Michael Blasko and Cole Krzmarzick are both Las Vegas natives who were drawn away from their hometown Rebels.
“It was awesome going home and playing against a team I grew up rooting for,” Krzmarzick said. “There was a great atmosphere in the park with many families and friends.”
Blasko and Krmarzick played together in high school at Bishop Gorman. There were six Gorman graduates total in the series.
“It was nice playing some old teammates but at the end of the day a win is a win which is hard to come by in college baseball,” Blasko said.
Wins are hard to come by for many college baseball teams, but not Nevada so far this spring. The Wolf Pack is 13-2 (5-1 MW). Johnson’s team is off to the school’s best start ever, but to him it means nothing other than he’s got a good group of guys.
“We have good players who are playing the game well right now, and that’s about it,” Johnson said.
Ryan Suppe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.