The Nevada baseball team stunned its rivals on Thursday, overturning a five-run deficit with seven unanswered runs in a 7-5 victory over UNLV at Earl E. Wilson Stadium. The Wolf Pack (8-12, 2-4) scored three runs in the ninth frame to register a thrilling comeback win against the Rebels (8-12, 3-4).
Down to its last strike of the game, sophomore Jordan Pearce hit a game-tying RBI single to score redshirt freshman Keaton Smith in the top of the ninth inning. Senior Justin Hazard then drove in the game-winning run with a single up the middle as sophomore TJ Friedl raced home from third. Nevada trailed 5-0 after six innings before scoring three in the seventh, one in the eighth and three in the ninth.
Junior RHP Evan McMahan earned the win on the mound, pitching 3.0 scoreless innings in relief while allowing just two base runners. Nevada scored seven runs on 11 hits, while its bottom four batters in the lineup went 9-of-16 with five RBI and five runs. Pearce led the Wolf Pack with two hits, three runs and an RBI.
“I thought our guys showed a lot of resiliency out there,” said head coach T.J. Bruce. “This is what we mean when we talk about working the process. You can’t hit a five-run home run, so you just have to do your job and pass the baton to the next guy, and that’s what both our pitchers and hitters did. This was a big team win.”
Nevada loaded the bases on two outs in the first inning with consecutive hits and a walk before the Rebels ended the threat. Senior LHP Christian Stolo, who started on the mound and set a season-high with eight strikeouts, stranded a pair of Rebels in the bottom first before striking out the side in the second frame.
A pair of Wolf Pack errors proved costly in the third frame as UNLV plated three runs – two of which were unearned - on two hits. The Rebels added two runs in the sixth frame to open a 5-0 lead.
Nevada rallied with three runs in the seven inning to trim the deficit to 5-3. Junior Justin Bridgman and junior Trenton Brooks each hit RBI singles while senior Bryce Greager scored from third base on a wild pitch.
The Wolf Pack continued to rally and pulled within one run in the eighth inning. Pearce hit a leadoff single, advanced to second on a walk and reached third base on a sacrifice bunt. Bridgman then scored Pearce with an RBI groundout, trimming the deficit to 5-4.
Trailing by one run in the ninth inning, Greager hit a leadoff single before Friedl drew a walk to put two runners on base. The Rebels put Nevada down to its final strike of the game before Pearce lined an 0-2 ball to right field, scoring pinch-runner Keaton Smith to tie the game. On the first pitch of the next at bat, Hazard notched the game-winning hit for the Wolf Pack with a single up the middle, scoring Friedl from third. Sophomore Cole Krzmarzick added an insurance run with a single to center field, scoring Pearce to make it 7-5 in favor of Nevada.
McMahan struck out UNLV’s first two batters before allowing a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth. The six-foot righty then produced a pop-up deep into foul territory as Pearce made the catch near the fence for the game’s final out, securing a thrilling comeback.
Stolo pitched 5.2 innings with a season-high eight strikeouts, allowing seven hits and five runs – only two of which were earned. Senior RHP Cameron Rowland earned one out in relief of Stolo before McMahan shut the Rebel offense down with three scoreless innings. McMahan allowed just one hit and one walk while lowering his ERA to 3.46.
Pearce went 2-of-4 at the plate with a season-high three runs and the game-tying RBI to lead Nevada. Hazard and Krzmarzick each added two hits and one RBI a piece, while Bridgman drove in two runs.
The Wolf Pack’s 7-5 win tonight marked its biggest comeback victory since overturning a six-run deficit in a 9-8 win against Fresno State on Feb. 20, 2015.
The Wolf Pack and Rebels will return to the diamond for game two on Friday with first pitch set for 6:05 p.m. PT at Earl E. Wilson Stadium. The game will be streamed live on the Mountain West Network.