The Nevada baseball program is looking to continue its success after its regular season Mountain West Conference championship. Last year, the Pack finished 29-24 overall and 20-9 in conference play. Not only is Nevada seeking to win another Mountain West regular season title, they also hope to come out as the Mountain West Conference tournament champions. If they succeed, they’ll reach their first NCAA Regional berth since 2000. The Wolf Pack enter this season already on the national radar, receiving votes in Collegiate Baseball’s preseason poll.
The schedule for the Pack this year brings some good competition to prepare them for conference play. The first series of the season will kick off in San Marcos, Texas with the Pack taking on Missouri State for their first game of the season — who is defending their conference title as well as a 40-win season. Nevada will also face opponents such as Long Beach State, Grand Canyon University and most notably reigning national champions Oregon State for a two-game home series April 22 and 23.
Last year, the Pack traveled up to Corvallis to face off against the Beavers, dropping both games in extra innings by a combined two runs. Nevada would benefit greatly, receiving a confidence boost going into league play if they can achieve the sweep of the preseason No. 7 Beavers this time around.
In-conference foes such as Fresno State, San Diego State and UNLV will be chasing the top of the Mountain West Conference as well. Last season, the Aztecs won the conference championship tournament defeating UNLV, earning a bid to the NCAA Regionals. Last season, Nevada’s postseason dreams vanished after losing back-to-back to UNLV and San Jose State in the double-elimination conference tournament.
Nevada has improved immensely over the past two seasons. Just two seasons ago, Nevada finished their season 19-36 overall and 13-16 in conference play. This could be the year the Pack take over the Mountain West Conference and find themselves in postseason play for the first time in nearly twenty years.
Nevada returns a lot of talent from last season’s team. Second Team All-Mountain West right-handed pitcher Jake Jackson, First Team All-Mountain West catcher Kaleb Foster and MWC Freshman of the Year Josh Zamora are looking add on to their success as well this season. Zamora led the Mountain West with a pristine .427 batting average while tallying 29 runs and producing 28 RBIs. Sophomore Jake Jackson is coming off an 8-4 record from last year who appeared in just under 85 innings and 77 strikeouts as a true freshman. Kaleb Foster will be one of the main senior leaders playing behind the dish this season. Last season, Foster hit for a .310 average and logged 40 hits for the Pack.
Some added newcomers are looking to improve the squad this season. A lot of hype is surrounding freshman Owen Sharts. The two-way player hailing from Simi Valley, California, is a right-handed hurler who possesses a 90-plus MPH fastball. Sharts was drafted in the 32nd round of last year’s MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers but chose not to sign and stick to his commitment to the Wolf Pack.
Nevada has lots of potential for a successful season. The Pack is expected to defend their regular season conference title, but hope for more success in the conference tournament — after last year’s tournament left them with a bitter taste in their mouth. The Mountain West Conference tournament will be held in Reno, Nevada this year, so the home field advantage may be helpful. Nevada should expect to finally end its postseason drought and find themselves in the regionals.
Henry Travland can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.