by Ryan Suppe
Forget UNLV. Nevada may have found its new rival in Fresno State, in baseball at least.
Not only did the Bulldogs hand Nevada (27-9, 13-5 Mountain West) its first series loss of the season last weekend, a bench-clearing brawl also led to seven different players being ejected from the game and receiving suspensions.
The tension has been building since the two team’s first meeting earlier this season at Peccole Park. While the Wolf Pack swept Fresno State — including an Austin Byler walk-off home run in extra innings — 12 players were beamed by pitches and both teams received a warning from the umpire.
Tension escalated last weekend in the second game of the series during the fifth inning. The fight occurred when Fresno State’s Korbey Batesole, the coach’s son, tried to advance to third base on a throw to the plate. Wolf Pack catcher Jordan Devencenzi threw to third where shortstop Kyle Hunt was covering and Hunt was met with a hard slide “spikes up” from Batesole.
Hunt retaliated by pushing Batesole to the dirt and allegedly throwing a punch. Both teams’ dugouts cleared, with shoves and fracas ensuing.
Nevada head coach Jay Johnson and Fresno State’s Mike Batesole got into it as well, yelling at each other amid the chaos. After the altercation, umpires dished out ejections to four Fresno State players and three Nevada players — Hunt, Devencenzi and Trenton Brooks. Both coaches were tossed, too. In the end, the Bulldogs got the last laugh, winning 14-10.
The rubber-match on Sunday was a far quieter ordeal. All of the players who were ejected on Saturday were suspended from Sunday’s game as well. The Bulldogs held the Wolf Pack to just three hits and one run. The only run came in the top of the first inning. Fresno State’s Jimmy Lambert had an outstanding performance. He threw 103 pitches in eight innings, giving up one earned run. Nevada’s Jason Deitrich recorded his second loss of the season after five innings of work and three earned runs. He’s 4-2 after taking the loss.
The series-opening 5-4 victory was the Wolf Pack’s sole bright spot during the weekend. In game one, the Bulldogs scored early and led 4-2 by the fourth inning. A two-RBI triple from Kewby Meyer in the top of the fifth and an RBI single from Trenton Brooks gave the Wolf Pack the lead for the first time since the top of the first.
Nevada held on to the one-run lead, and closer Adam Whitt earned his 12th save of the season in the ninth. Whitt is now tied for second in the nation in saves. He is just one away from tying Nevada’s single-season save record.
While the weekend might’ve been a black eye to the Wolf Pack’s season, the team remains in the conference title hunt. Nevada is one game behind San Diego State for the first place in the MWC. The top two MW teams will square off for the first time this season in a three-game series starting Friday at Tony Gwynn Stadium in San Diego.
Ryan Suppe can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @TheSagebrush.