The 3-8 Nevada Baseball season is off to a rocky start, to say the least, but it’s not time to panic yet. The team opened the year going 1-3 on a road trip to Sam Houston State and Baylor, then returned home to Peccole Park to go 1-3 in a series against Virginia Tech.
After the home stand, Nevada went back on the road to play a three-game series against Fresno State. The Wolf Pack went 1-2.
The Wolf Pack plays again on Tuesday, Mar.7, against Saint Mary’s in Moraga, California. It is easy to see why fans can be concerned. Lopsided losses to Sam Houston, Baylor, and of course the 24-10 drubbing at the hands of Virginia Tech will have that effect.
But those three losses are not necessarily indicative of the season thus far. Other than those three, the Wolf Pack has been right in the thick of every game. All but one of their other losses came by three runs or less, including three one-run losses.
The run differential numbers are jarring as well. A 14 run loss 11 games into the campaign will do that. So will two shutouts. With their upcoming game against Saint Mary’s, the Pack average 7.5 runs allowed and just 4.8 runs scored.
All of this is ignoring one fact: the Pack has played a couple of very good baseball teams. Virginia Tech and Baylor are both power-five schools, and last year Sam Houston State made it to the NCAA regional. They were eliminated by Arizona, who went on to lose to Coastal Carolina in the College World Series.
Even Fresno State is no slouch. The Bulldogs won 36 games last season and went 26-7 at home.
But there are 44 games left in the season, plus the Mountain West tournament. Not only that but last season the Wolf Pack was not playing its best baseball until the end of the season. The team finished the season winning 15 of its last 17 games, and carried that momentum into the Mountain West tournament.
Last year’s team was just 17-14 outside the Mountain West. But going 20-10 in conference play helped them to a 37-24 overall record.
Last year’s team was also much better at home than on the road. The Pack was 16-7 inside the friendly confines of Peccole Park, and just 17-14 on the road. Traveling to Texas to open the year is no small task.
Baseball is a very long season, and it can be a grind for players. Even in the MLB, good teams go through absolutely rotten stretches of the season. But they can bounce back. That is why baseball seasons are so long: it takes a large sample size to find accurate representations of teams.
On the topic of the MLB, professional players get spring training. College players do not. And a month of baseball can make a huge impact on a player’s swing. Practices help, but it takes time to get back to game speed after the offseason. And that struggle is only magnified for freshmen. Nevada boasts 12 of them.
Two freshmen, in particular, have struggled. Starting pitcher Grant Ford and second baseman Tyler Flores have stumbled out of the blocks.
Flores was selected to CalHiSports Second Team All-State in California but has not yet shown the power that made him such a heralded recruit. In seven games, including five starts, he is hitting a minuscule .091 with no RBIs and two runs scored.
Ford is not starting strong either. In three starts, he is 1-2 with an ERA of 9. In just 13 innings pitched, he has allowed 16 runs. In high school, Ford was known as a strikeout pitcher, but in 13 innings he only has 10 strikeouts.
In no way is this an attempt to put blame on the two freshmen for the slow start to the season. It is a team sport and no two players are responsible. Especially not two with a combined eight starts.
Despite the struggles, these are two talented players. They would not be starting games for a division 1 team as freshmen if they were not. But it will take a while for them to get their sea legs. There is a learning curve.
They will both figure it out. Between their talent and a terrific coaching staff, they will bounce back.
So it’s important not to rush to judgment on the 2017 Wolf Pack baseball team. It is not even a dozen games into the season and the games have been against some quality opposition. This is a very well-coached team with loads of talent. Give them time; this is a team that can and will still compete for a Mountain West championship.