The Nevada Wolf Pack baseball team is growing a bit tired of learning things the hard way.
“We’ve been punched in the gut a few times already this year,” Wolf Pack coach Jay Johnson said after a 7-4 loss to the San Jose State Spartans in 10 innings Saturday afternoon at Peccole Park. “We’ll learn from these games and I know we’ll start coming out on top in some of these. But that also doesn’t make it any easier when you are going through it.”
The Spartans scored a run with two outs in the ninth inning to send the game to extra innings at 4-4 and then added three in the top of the 10th to win the Mountain West game. The Pack fell to 3-7 overall and 1-4 in the Mountain West while San Jose State improved to 3-8, 2-3.
“We’re right around the corner from putting it all together,” said Pack first baseman Austin Byler, who hit his first home run of the season in the first inning for a 2-1 Pack lead. “We’ve been in every game so far. We’re close to coming together.”
They were extremely close on Saturday to their second consecutive win. The Pack, which opened this series with a 6-4 victory on Friday night, led 4-3 with two outs in the top of the ninth. Reliever Colby Blueberg, though, walked Brett Bautista on a 3-2 pitch and then hit Sheldon Daquioag and Matt Lopez on consecutive pitches to force in the tying run. Blueberg then rallied to fan Mitch Ravizza on three pitches with the bases loaded to end the inning and preserve the tie.
But the damage was done.
“We were one strike away, with two outs and no runner in scoring position,” Johnson said. “It’s frustrating.”
San Jose State won the game in the 10th off Pack relievers Austin Dick and Tyler Wells. Dick faced just three hitters and allowed two hits and a run and Wells allowed a towering 420-foot two-run home run just to the left of straight-away center field by the Spartans’ Matt Carroll.
Johnson said Wells, a left-hander, almost wasn’t allowed to pitch to Carroll, a 6-foot-6, 235-pound right-hander. “The baserunner was on first when he (Carroll) came up,” Johnson said. “If the runner was on second, we would have walked (Carroll).”
Carroll now has San Jose State’s only two home runs this season.
“Tyler left the pitch up and give (Carroll) credit,” Johnson said. “He didn’t miss it.”
Wells, a starter the last two seasons, is struggling in his new role as a reliever. The junior has now allowed 10 hits and nine earned runs over 2.2 innings in relief this year. In his one start he allowed just two runs in 4.2 innings.
“Tyler is just going through one of those stretches,” Johnson said. “Everybody goes through something like this eventually. We’re going to keep running him out there.”
Wells wasn’t the only Pack pitcher to struggle on Saturday. The six Wolf Pack pitchers combined to allow 10 hits and they also hit eight Spartan hitters and walked four.
The first two Pack pitchers, though, pitched well enough to get the Pack to the ninth inning with a 4-3 lead. Starter Jason Deitrich went four innings and allowed just one run despite hitting one batter in each of the first four innings. Mark Nowaczewski allowed two runs on two walks and three hits in the fifth inning but settled down to blank the Spartans in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
Nowaczewski, a 6-4 freshman from Reed High, fanned Lopez and Ravizza with the bases loaded to stop the bleeding in the fifth and then didn’t allow a hit over his final three innings.
“He is somebody who is going to be a staple for this program for as long as he’s with us,” Johnson said.
It took the Wolf Pack all of seven pitches to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning off San Jose State starter Jonathan Hernandez. Leadoff hitter Kyle Hunt drilled a 1-2 pitch to left for a single and Byler lofted a 1-1 pitch over the right field fence.
“When I hit it I just thought it was a little fly ball,” smiled Byler, who now has 14 career home runs in 386 at bats. “But it just kept going and going. It’s always nice to get that first one. I’ve been waiting a while for it.”
The Wolf Pack tied the game at 3-3 with a run in the fifth and took a 4-3 lead with a run in the seventh. Ryan Teel doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Justin Bridgman in the fifth and Jay Anderson singled, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Hunt over the second baseman’s head. Hunt had three hits, drove in a run and scored a run.
The Pack also wasted a scoring opportunity in the sixth as Byler was hit by a pitch and Kewby Meyer singled with no outs. Clean-up hitter Jordan Devencenzi then was asked to bunt but the designated hitter popped it up to the catcher foul behind the plate. Brad Gerig then flied out to center and Scott Kaplan flew out to left to end the inning.
The Wolf Pack is now 0-2 in extra inning games this year. They also wasted late-inning leads in two other losses, falling 11-9 at Fresno State after leading 5-2 in the sixth inning and dropping a 7-4 decision at Sacramento State after leading 4-3 in the eighth.
“It’s only a matter of time before we turn this around and run off a few victories in a row,” Byler said.
The Pack and Spartans will conclude the series with a noon game on Sunday.