By Chris Boline
For the last semester, students and community members had been encouraged to “Populate Peccole” for last Sunday’s game against San Jose State. Even though the Nevada baseball team fell to the Spartans, they did so in front of a sold-out Peccole Park crowd.
Before a record-setting reported attendance of 3,136, the Pack was unable to overcome a rough first inning that saw starter Jason Deitrich give up four earned runs. Nevada was able to rally back by scoring three runs in the fifth inning to only go down by one run. However, the Spartans notched another run in the sixth inning and never looked back. The final score of 6-4 was triple the offensive output that San Jose State had put together in the prior two games of the series, but the bigger number was the record-attendance at Peccole Park.
While there were some empty seats in the bleachers, the assembled crowd was almost triple the team’s average attendance total of 1,112. In fact, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval was in attendance to watch to the Wolf Pack take on the Spartans. The “Populate Peccole” campaign was the brainchild of the Nevada athletics marketing team. Holly Aycock, the Assistant Athletic Director of Marketing and Promotions and Doug Howe, the Assistant Director of Marketing and Promotions both agreed that this was a group effort by the staff along with Coordinator of Involvement and Promotions Derek Neff. Indeed, the atmosphere at the game was a far cry from how the stadium’s game days looked last season.
“Last year alone we only averaged about 360 people a game, so to get over 3,000 here today is pretty awesome,” Neff said.
Even though the Pack did end up taking the loss in the series finale, the squad was still able to take away some positives from the game.
“The atmosphere here was amazing, you got the ‘Wolf’ and the ‘Pack’ chants going and just to see the seats filled for the first time ever was awesome,” said first baseman Austin Byler.
Nevada falls to 33-11 on the season but is still atop the Mountain West standings with a two-game lead over San Diego State. Additionally, head coach Jay Johnson pointed out that freshman Jordan Pearce was the player of the game as the native of Oceanside, California collected three hits and scored one run. After last week’s slate of games, the Wolf Pack has the top three batters in terms of RBIs in the MWC (Ryan Howell, Byler and Trenton Brooks) and Howell is the conference’s leader in home runs with 14.
The Wolf Pack will stay at home for the first two games this week when they take on a 22-20 Saint Mary’s team, and then will head to New Mexico for a weekend series with the third-place Lobos.
Additionally, with the Mountain West Conference tournament being held in Reno this year, the All-American Byler feels as though fans will “Populate Peccole” on a regular basis.
“We got Air Force at the last series of the year and the conference tournament here so I expect everyone to come out for that because those are going to be some big games,” Byler said.
Coach Johnson acknowledged that while the Nevada fans are incredibly loyal and supportive, his team needs to keep up its end on the field and has high expectations for the rest of the year.
“We need maximum effort towards preparation and execution and we need to take it one day at a time,” Johnson said. “We just need to keep going after it, baseball is about the team that plays the best that day and that’s been us most of the year so we’re just going to keep attacking that.”
Chris Boline can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @CDBoline.