It's not often Gary Powers allows a freshman to close out ballgames for his Nevada Wolf Pack. Then again, it's not often he has a freshman like Michael Fain down in his bullpen.
The 6-foot-6, 185-poiund right-hander has stepped right into the all-important closer's role and has already become one of the more reliable firemen on the west coast. Fain has four saves and two victories in seven games as the Pack has won four games in a row to improve to 9-4 on the year.
"He seems to really want that role," Powers said earlier this year. "That's very important."
Fain has a 2.08 earned run average this year over 8.2 innings but has not allowed a run over his last 6.1 innings of work. He also has yet to allow a run in the ninth inning this year over seven appearances in the final inning.
The question of who would replace Matt Gardner as closer this year was one of the biggest concerns Powers had going into the 2013 season. Gardner saved a school-record 13 games in 2012 and 19 over the last two years.
That question has already been answered.
Fain has allowed just four hits all season but just one over his last 6.1 innings. His latest save was Tuesday night when he retired the side in order in the ninth in an 11-9 win at Pacific.
Fain has also appeared in each of the Pack's last three games (all victories). The Pack is 6-1 in games in which he has appeared.
RUN TO WIN: Powers has had amazing good fortune this year when inserting a pinch-runner into a game. The Pack coach has called upon a pinch-runner five times in the first 13 games and the substitution has scored four times. The Pack is also 4-1 in those games.
The Pack pinch-runners so far in 2013 . . .
- Curtis Frisbee: Frisbee ran for Bryce Barger in the ninth inning on Feb. 18 against Kansas and came around to score on Brad Gerig's game-winning, walk-off, two-run double in a 9-8 Pack win.
- Ray McIntire: McIntire came in to run for Brett Jones in the ninth inning but did not score in a 4-1 loss to Sacramento State on Feb. 26. The Wolf Pack loaded the bases in the ninth with no out but did not score in the inning.
- Lance Berringer: Berringer ran for Brett Jones in the sixth inning on March 2 against Holy Cross and came around to score on a double by Austin Byler in an 8-1 win.
- Shaun Mize: Mize came into the game as a runner for Hugo Hernandez in the eighth inning on March 2 against Holy Cross. He came around to score on Austin Byler's 3-run home run as the Pack won 12-10.
- Shaun Mize: Mize ran for Kyle Hunt in the sixth inning on March 5 and scored on a single by Jamison Rowe in an 11-9 Pack win.
ON THE ROAD ONCE AGAIN: The Wolf Pack will play three games at Utah Valley starting on Thursday and one game at UC Davis on March 12 before returning to Peccole Park.
The Pack's next home appearance will be March 15-17 when Air Force comes to northern Nevada for the first three-game series in the Mountain West in Wolf Pack history.
STREAKING PACK: Wolf Pack players have a lot of mini streaks going right now . . .
- Shortstop Kyle Hunt has reached base in each of the last eight games.
- Hunt has scored a run in the last four games after not scoring in his first eight games.
- Brooks Klein is the only Pack player to start all 13 games (all in right field).
- The Wolf Pack is 4-0 when Brett Jones ion the designated hitter.
- The Pack is 4-0 when Jones hits fourth in the order.
- The Pack is also 4-0 when Klein hits sixth.
- The Wolf Pack is 4-0 when Jay Anderson is the lead-off hitter.
- Kewby Meyer has a 5-game hitting streak.
HIGH-POWERED OFFENSE: It's no secret how the Wolf Pack has gotten off to its 9-4 start. The offense has carried the team on most days, overcoming a shaky bullpen (other than Fain).
The Pack leads the Mountain West in slugging (.436), RBI (80) and homers (7), is second in runs scored (84), hits (122) and on base percentage (.399) and third in batting average (.288).
The Wolf Pack, though, is also sixth (last) in earned run average (5.29), opponents batting average (.309), hits allowed (133) and runs allowed (72).
DEFENSE SHINING: Second baseman Scott Kaplan and shortstop Kyle Hunt have flashed gold gloves so far this season.
Kaplan, a junior, has yet to make an error this year in 40 chances. He had his busiest game on Tuesday at Pacific when he handled 10 chances (five assists, five putouts) without a miscue.
Kaplan's double play partner has also been nearly flawless. Hunt has just one error this year over 36 chances.
Thanks to Kaplan and Hunt, the Wolf Pack leads the Mountain West and is 11th in the nation with a fielding percentage of .988.