The Nevada Wolf Pack football and men's basketball teams struggled in their first seasons in the Mountain West. The Wolf Pack baseball team hopes to reverse that trend starting Friday afternoon (2 p.m.) when the Air Force Falcons come to Peccole Park.
The Wolf Pack, 11-6 overall, will play ts first Mountain West series against the 5-10 Falcons. Air Force was picked to finish last in the six-team Mountain West by the league's coaches while the Wolf Pack was picked to finish third.
Not including Fresno state, which is joining the Mountain West from the Western Athletic Conference this season with the Wolf Pack, the Pack is 19-14 against current Mountain West schools since it joined the WAC in 2001. Most of those games (16-10) have been against UNLV but the Pack has also played San Diego State (1-3) and New Mexico (2-1) since 2001.
Air Force brings a three-game losing streak to Peccole and has lost four of its last five games.
The Mountain West season consists of 10 3-game series with each team playing each other at home and on the road.
The Wolf Pack did not finish higher than fifth place in its first season in its last three conferences. The Pack was 11-13 and in fifth place in the West Coast Conference in 1985, 7-14 and in seventh place in the Big West in 1993 and 17-19 and in fifth in the WAC in 2001.
DEFENSE STRUGGLING: The Wolf Pack has won five of its last seven games but has also allowed 61 runs in those seven games. A big reason for the opposition's big offensive output is a Wolf Pack defense that has made 11 errors in its last four games and 13 in its last six games.
The Pack made just four errors in its first 11 games when it allowed just three unearned runs. In the last six games, however, the Pack has allowed 14 unearned runs.
Second baseman Scott Kaplan did not make an error over the Pack's first 13 games but has been charged with five errors in the last four games.
GERIG SLUMPING: Brad Gerig, who joined the Pack this year from Sierra College, hit the ground running in the Pack's first seven games.
He was hitting .360 (9-for-25) over the first seven games with six runs scored. His two-run, two-out, pinch-hit double in the ninth inning beat Kansas 9-8 in the fourth game of the year.
Over the last 10 games, though, the junior outfielder is 1-for-17 and has seen his average slide to .238.
BYLER MAKING HUGE STRIDES: Austin Byler has already surpassed his production of his entire freshman season.
The sophomore third baseman has six home runs and 24 RBI this year in just 61 at-bats after hitting four homers with 22 RBI last year over 163 at-bats. Byler hit .276 last year and is at .410 this year.
He also already has as many extra base hits this year (13) and he had last year. He has four doubles and three triples to go along with his six homers this year. Last year he had eight doubles and a triple with his four homers.
FAMILIAR START FOR JAMESON: Tom Jameson's slow start this season (8.47 earned run average over four appearances and three starts) should not alarm anyone. The senior right-hander has typically struggled out of the gate in his Wolf Pack career.
As a freshman in 2010, Jameson allowed 18 hits and seven earned runs over his first four games and eight innings. As a sophomore in 2011, he allowed 20 hits and 17 earned runs over his first three games and seven innings. Last year he seemed to get over the problem when he stumbled only in his first start, allowing four runs and seven hits in 4.1 innings against New Mexico.
Jameson, who has allowed 26 hits and 16 earned runs this year over 17 innings, has always rebounded to finish strong. In 2010, he was 6-1 with a 3.84 ERA, in 2011 he was 6-6 with a 4.84 ERA and last year he was 7-2 with a 2.55 ERA.
REPLACING CARLOS: The Wolf Pack, as expected, has had a difficult time replacing the offense Carlos Escobar gave them at catcher last year.
Escobar, who left the Pack after his junior season in 2012 to play for the Chicago Cubs organization, hit .283 last year with five homers and 38 RBI. He played in 54 of the Pack's 57 games and had a .368 on base percentage with 14 doubles and 28 runs scored.
The three Pack catchers this year -- Ryan Teel, Joe Setum and Collin Theroux -- have combined to hit .179 (10-for-56). Theroux played just four innings before breaking his hand in a home plate collision in the second game of the year and got just one at-bat.
Teel, a sophomore, and Setum, a junior college transfer from Sacramento City College, have had to step in and carry the load. And while their average (Teel is 7-for-40 and Setum is 3-for-15) might not reflect it, the two backstops have done a somewhat respectable job producing runs.
Teel has eight RBI and has scored five runs and Setum has two RBI and three runs scored. Their 18 RBI/runs in 16 starts is only slightly below the production of Escobar (66 RBI/runs in 51 starts).
ANDERSON AVERAGE ALSO DECEIVING: Sophomore center fielder Jay Anderson is just 1-for-23 this year. But like Teel and Setum, he has been fairly productive without the benefit of many hits.
Anderson, who hit .286 last year with 36 runs, 19 RBI and 25 walks, has scored five runs this year and driven in five despite collecting just one hit. Anderson has walked nine times this year and also has two sacrifice flies, three sacrifice bunts and has handled all 20 chances on defense without an error.