After a shaky start to their 2017-2018 season, Nevada’s Baseball team looks to finish its home stretch of the season strong and contend for the title of fourth place this weekend against Air Force. Nevada is currently one game ahead of Air Force, holding a 13-27 record (9-12 conference).
The 2017 season for Nevada has been a rough one. Starting their season with a 1-4 record, Nevada suffered losses to Virginia Tech, Sam Houston State and division rival, Fresno State. Nevada continued to find themselves losing, with wins scattered here and there, such as San Diego State University and Utah State. Nevada then began to find their groove with a win in their triple header against Air Force in March. In an attempt to carry their strong momentum after their first triple header win of the season, Nevada suffered in back to back 1-3 losses to Hawaii and San Diego State University. Looking for a way to retaliate, the Wolf Pack went on a four game winning streak, taking down San Jose State and Fresno State in back to back triple headers. That now brings us to where we are now, Nevada taking on Air Force to solidify their spot at fourth place in the Mountain West.
With a win against Air Force, Nevada will solidify their slot at fourth place, and finish the season contending against top teams such as UNLV, New Mexico and Clemson. If Nevada loses, they will fall to fifth place and have to redeem themselves with wins over other division rivals. In order to win, Nevada will have to depend on their star and veteran players this weekend to come up big. Nevada’s ability to be consistent and get on base will determine their outcome in the triple header.
Junior first baseman Jordan Pierce has reached base in Nevada’s last 26 games, while freshman Dillan Shrum has reached base in the last 19 games. Senior shortstop and hometown hero Justin Bridgman has also been outstanding this year, with a current batting average streak of .429. Along with Bridgman, freshman catcher Marco Valenzuela is hitting .450 during his current six-game streak. If Nevada can utilize Bridgman and Valenzuela together to consistently hit, and get other runners such as Pierce & Shrum on base, as well as bring them home, Nevada will defeat Air Force this weekend, no question.
Another huge momentum swing Nevada needs to have is the consistency of star pitcher, junior Mark Nowaczewski. Currently the back to back Mountain West pitcher of the week, Nowaczewski will need to control his throwing and accuracy against Air Force if he wants to lead his team to victory. Currently leading the team in both runs and walks allowed, Nowaczewski has a wicked arm that sometimes can get the best of him. If this happens, the triple header could be on the line, and he would possibly be replaced by the senior dead eye pitcher Trevor Charpie. Yet, when Nowaczewski focuses down and concentrates on his accuracy, he is a threat, as he currently holds 36 strikeouts on the season and has only allowed two home runs all season, the best out of all Nevada pitchers.
This weekend will be heavily dependent on consistency. Can Pierce and Shrum stay consistent and get on base? Can Bridgman and Valenzuela be consistent and connect the ball with the bat? Can Nowaczewski throw under control and consistently make big plays? Nevada will be tested on all of these questions against Air Force, as they contend for their shot at fourth place. Nevada will begin their triple header against Air Force on Friday, April 28 . Come watch Nevada take on the Falcons as these ball players fight for their team.