Shipley tossed eight strong innings to beat the Falcons 3-2 in the Wolf Pack’s first Mountain West game in school history. The game lasted just 2:02, the shortest game the Pack has played since they beat Fresno State 1-0 in two hours exactly on April 29, 2012 at Peccole Park.
“It was just a real good pitcher’s duel,” said Pack coach Gary Powers, whose team improved to 12-6, 1-0. “Both pitchers were outstanding on both sides.”
Both starters -- Shipley and Air Force’s Cameron White -- went eight innings. Shipley allowed just four hits, a walk and a run and White allowed seven hits and three runs and didn’t walk a hitter. Michael Fain pitched the ninth in relief of Shipley to pick up his sixth save.
It was the fist time all season that both starting pitchers went at least eight innings in a Pack game. The last time it happened was when Shipley beat Louisiana Tech’s Jeb Stefan in the first round of the Western Athletic Conference tournament May 23, 2012 in Mesa, Ariz. The last time it happened at Peccole Park was when Shipley out-dueled San Jose State’s Johnny Melero 4-1 on May 11, 2012.
“We knew it would be a game like this,” Powers said. “Cameron White is a very good pitcher, with a great (earned run average) and he doesn’t walk anybody. We knew it would be tough to score runs.”
White, a 6-foot-4 junior right-hander, came to Peccole Park with a 1-3 record but with a 2.35 ERA and just two walks in 30.2 innings.
“He does a great job of pitching to spots,” said Powers of White, who has now gone at least eight innings in his last four starts.
The Wolf Pack, though, jumped on the right-hander for two runs on three hits in the first inning. Jamison Rowe singled and stole second to start the inning. Rowe then went to third on a ground out to first base off the bat of Scott Kaplan and scored on a sacrifice fly by Kewby Meyer. Austin Byler followed with a two-out single and scored on a double by Brooks Klein for the quick 2-0 lead.
“Those weren’t easy runs to get,” Powers said. “We did what we had to do to manufacture those runs, moving runners over and getting them in.”
The quick 2-0 lead was important for Shipley, Powers said.
“Any pitcher likes pitching with a lead,” Powers said. “When you have a lead it allows you to settle down and relax and little and concentrate on the task at hand a little better.”
Shipley, it seemed, was locked in right from the start. The 6-foot-3 right-hander with the 97 mile and hour fastball, dominated the Air Force hitters and faced just one hitter over the minimum over the first four innings.
He struggled only briefly when he walked Air Force’s Spencer Draws and allowed a double to Matt Thorne to start the fifth. Draws scored on a ground out to second by Brian Sichar to cut the Pack’s lead to 2-1.
“He lost his command a little bit there and it cost him a run,” Powers said. “It was only for two or three hitters but he couldn’t find his spots and they took advantage of it and scored a run.”
Shipley, now 3-0 this year and 13-4 in his career, overpowered the Falcons after Thorne’s double. He retired 12 of the last 14 Air Force hitters he faced with the only baserunners coming on a two-single by Thorne in the seventh and when Sicher reached on an error to start the eighth.
Shipley fanned eight and walked just one to lower his ERA on the year to 2.52.
“He didn’t let that one bad stretch (in the fourth) snowball into something bigger,” Powers said. “He did a real nice job.”
The Wolf Pack got some breathing room with an important run in the bottom of the eighth. Ryan Teel led off the inning against White with a double to left field. Kyle Hunt pushed Teel to third with a sacrifice bunt and Row brought him home with a sacrifice fly to center and a 3-1 lead.
“I tip my hat to (White),” Powers said. “He’s not overpowering but he keeps you off balance and he makes great pitches. You have to manufacture runs off him because he’s not going to make mistakes. And that’s what we did. We manufactured all three runs and it was enough to win the game.”
The Falcons, though, made things interesting in the top of the ninth with an unearned run off Fain. Seth Kline lofted what appeared to be a routine fly ball to center that Rowe lost sight of and let fall for a double. The run was unearned because he ended up scoring on a passed ball.
Fain, a 6-6 freshman from Clovis, Calif., nailed down the victory by getting Zach Reks on a one-hopper back to the mound with the tying run on first.
“Winning the first game of the (three-game) series is huge,” Powers said. “Now they have to win two in a row to win the series.”
The Pack and Falcons will close out the series with games Saturday (1 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.).