By Ryan Suppe
Last Tuesday was a milestone day for Nevada baseball as the program celebrated its 500th win at Peccole Park, and T.J. Bruce celebrated his first home victory as head coach of the Wolf Pack. But the celebration didn’t carry into the weekend. Nevada traveled to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and dropped its second series in a row, losing two of three games to Air Force.
Nevada (4-7) defeated Santa Clara (6-6) by a score of 14-2 in a midweek matchup on March 1. Then, the Wolf Pack lost to Air Force (7-2) by a score of 5-2 on March 4 and 18-4 on March 5. In the third game of the series, Nevada led 12-5 after eight innings when the game was postponed.
Junior Miles Mastrobuoni and sophomore T.J. Friedl each went four-for-five in the win over Santa Clara. Mastrobuoni is tied for first in the conference and tied for 14th in the nation with his .500 batting average.
Senior Zach Wilkins made his second start on the mound for Nevada and grabbed his second win of the season. In 2015, Wilkins made 20 appearances out of the bullpen and one start, posting a 3.26 ERA and a .214 opponent’s batting average.
If you take away one hellish inning, the Wolf Pack played a competitive series in its Mountain West opener against Air Force. Nevada gave up 12 runs in the first inning of Saturday’s game but outscored Air Force 18-16 in all other innings combined on the weekend.
The Falcons ended 2015 with a 23-29 record and a fifth spot in the MW standings. It was the team’s best season since 2002, and this year head coach Mike Kazlausky and his team are projected to do even better. Air Force was picked to finish third in the MW Preseason Coaches Poll, and four of the Falcons were selected for the preseason All-MW Team, which is more players than any other team.
Junior pitcher Griffin Jax is one of the All-MW selections, and he started game one for the Falcons. He held the Wolf Pack to two earned runs on six hits through seven innings.
Senior Christian Stolo made his third start of the season for Nevada, allowing four earned runs on seven hits. After an eight-inning complete game, Stolo was charged with his third loss of 2016. He is now 0-3 with a 3.32 ERA.
“I thought Stolo competed very well,” Bruce said. “Their pitcher was really good, but we made an error, let a leadoff walk score and a passed ball score. A few of the things that we could control got away from us and that was the difference.”
Game one of the series lasted just under two hours. The first inning of game two went on for almost 40 minutes. Air Force sent 16 batters to the plate and scored 12 runs on nine hits in the bottom of the first. Nevada had to use three different pitchers to get the first three outs of the game.
Air Force added six runs in the remaining eight innings and coasted to a 14-run victory. The Wolf Pack scored four runs on 11 hits.
Nevada should be able to salvage a game from the series when the two teams complete the finale on April 22 at Peccole Park. The game was postponed due to Nevada’s travel schedule. The Wolf Pack has a seven-run lead and needs just three outs to secure the win, which would technically be its first MW victory of 2016.
Nevada will travel to Sacramento, California, for a single game against Sacramento State (6-3) on Wednesday, March 9, then the team will return home for a three-game series against conference opponent New Mexico (6-4) starting Friday, March 11 at 5 p.m.
Ryan Suppe can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.