The Weekend in WAC Baseball

Things are getting tighter folks. Teams at the top get beaten and the bottom feeders win to close it up around the middle. I went camping this weekend expecting I know not what in the baseball world and I come back to find things in a state of confusion. Who's first? Well, not for long. Who's last? Well, not for long.

Friday's Games:

New Mexico State 12 – Houston Baptist 11

In a game decided in a wild extra four innings, the winning run scores on a wild pitch. All those hits (37 total for both teams) and all those innings (13) and it takes a wild pitch to settle it? Bummer for Houston Baptist. This game started the bye week series for the Aggies as they watched the scoreboard to see how their position in the standings might change in that they could do nothing about it this weekend. Can no one stop this team from scoring or, can't anyone score more than they do? Two more homeruns with Bryan Marquez's 20th leading the way. No pitching to talk about here, as I'm sure the 204 fans in attendance would agree.

Louisiana Tech 8 – Hawai'i 5

Tech is making the WAC a very interesting race as they continue their quest to be included in this year's WAC Tournament. By the way they're playing now, no one can deny that they appear on their way. They beat the Rainbows for the second day in a row in a game featuring, gasp, no homeruns but it did have plenty of excitement. The game was tied 5-5 going into the ninth inning when the southern dogs scored three runs on two RBI doubles and a wild pitch which proved too much for Hawaii. Can you believe this: The Bulldogs are now 9-9 in the WAC and Hawaii is 9-8? It was only a couple of weeks ago that the dogs were 1-7 when they began their tear. Where will it end? Stay tuned as 3526 fans did this game.

NevadaFresno State rain
San Jose State – Sacramento State rain

Saturday's Games:

More confusion to add to the WAC standings. Louisiana Tech is now in front of Hawai'i in the standings. I would have bet against that one, believe me. Nevada vaults into first place and Fresno sinks further into the basement. San Jose State breaks my heart as they get hammered by Sacramento State, giving up six runs in the eighth inning to steal defeat from the jaws of victory. Oh, my heart.

New Mexico State 20/19 – Houston Baptist 10/9

In a doubleheader sweep that meant essentially nothing in the power struggle for WAC leadership, the Aggies beat up on Houston Baptist in New Mexico State's bye week practice games. In the first game shortened by the 10-run rule to seven innings, the Aggies got 20 runs on 17 hits along with three homeruns. The only event that was notable in this game was that the Aggie starter, Vendette, was the winner and is now 7-1. In doing so he pitched five innings and gave up ten earned runs which I'm sure made him happy. The second game went a little further by going eight innings as the Aggies scored ten runs in the last two innings to again invoke the 10-run rule. The Aggies got four more homeruns (to make a total of seven for the day) with Bryan Marquez hitting his 21st. Aggie starter Tyler Sturdevant (5-4) went seven innings giving up eight earned runs for the win. All this running around before 279 enraptured fans.

Louisiana Tech 8 – Hawai'i 4

Tech is making a believer out of me. This is three in a row over the Hawaii team that is nearly unbeatable at home. A five run fifth inning salted this one away for the Bulldogs. Devon Dageford's two-run triple was the big blow in that inning but he also contributed his 20th homerun to keep in the race with NMSU Marquez and Fresno's Mendonca for the WAC lead. La Tech got 14 hits with Dageford going 3 for 5 with two runs and three RBIs. The Rainbows on the other hand got eight hits and six walks but still could only produce four runs. Either the hitting was not at the right time or the Bulldogs' pitching was up to the task. Winner John Anderson (6-2) went a strong 5 2/3 innings for the win but the three relievers after him effectively shut down the Hawaii offense in giving them only one hit the rest of the way. 4567 fans saw this game. Amazing.

Nevada 15/16 – Fresno State 11/4

Fresno State fans are being treated to something they haven't witnessed in years; losing baseball. The mutts are now solidly mired in the WAC cellar and the future certainly doesn't look bright. The first game started well enough as Fresno led 4-1 going into the top of the fifth. Nevada then decided they'd seen enough, thank you, and scored seven runs in the fifth, five in the sixth, and two in seventh to shut up the home fans. Fresno answered a bit in their half of the fifth as Steve Detwiler hit a grandslam to cap a six run inning to take back the lead at 10-8. It was a short-lived lead as the Wolf Pack then scored the five runs in the next inning. Rule of thumb; when you score some runs, it's always in the best interest of the team's success if the pitcher doesn't allow any runs in the very next half inning. Oops. Seven homeruns in this game with Tom Mendonca (18) and Nevada's freshman Nick Melino hitting two (3) that certainly helped him in amassing an amazing eight RBIs. No pitching here.

The second game was a rout in which Fresno never led and was ended after eight innings due to the 10-run rule. The only pitching was by Nevada's Chris Garcia (4-4) who went seven strong innings giving up only one run on three hits. The other highlight was Nevada's freshman Nick Melino (remember him from the previous game?) hit another homerun and added four more RBIs. Depending on how he does the next two games he might deserve some serious consideration for the WAC hitter of the week and I'm sure 2764 fans would agree.

Sacramento State 11 – San Jose State 6

This one hurt. The Spartans were leading 6–5 going into the bottom of the eighth when the roof caved in. Tyler Heil got a taste of come-back baseball that seemed to have been a specialty of the boys in blue as of late as the Hornets scored six runs to go up by the final score as the Spartans did nothing in the ninth. Heil started the inning well enough by getting the first two outs but then must have been unnerved by leadoff hitter Hunter Martinez's homerun because before he got the next out five more runs had scored and this game was done. Starter Dave Berner pitched only four ineffective innings as he gave up nine hits and five runs (only one earned). Therein also lies a tale. The Spartans committed three errors which is very unlike them and those four unearned runs may have cost the boys in blue the game. Runs are runs and they all count and only 74 people watched a magical Hornet comeback. 

Sunday's Games:

The final games of the weekend complete an eventful week of WAC play. Most of the series turned out as I expected but still surprising as Louisiana Tech sweeps Hawaii which was unexpected to say the least. San Jose State falling to the Hornets as they did was also a bit unexpected and disappointing to us Spartan fans. New Mexico State's thrashing of Houston Baptist was certainly expected and Nevada fell a bit in splitting with Fresno State as I expected them to win fairly easily. Hey, I ain't getting rich doing this!

New Mexico State 4 – Houston Baptist 1

I hope you are sitting down as you read this as there were no homeruns in this game. I'm not going to check but I'm wondering if that's the first time that has happened to the Aggies this year? In addition they only were able to eke out four hits against the Houston Baptist pitchers. The Huskies were able to get only one run on their seven hits and I think that's due to the Aggie pitchers only giving up three walks. Walks are killers as Huskies' starter Tristan Gaines pitched 6 and 1/3 innings on two hits but eight walks, two wild pitches, one balk, and two hit batsmen probably cost him. The Aggies Jared Jordan improved to 7-1 by going 7 and 2/3 innings of good pitching. He gave up the only run and struck out nine in doing so. 159 people watched this game in Las Cruces.

Louisiana Tech 8 – Hawai'i 7

By winning the final game in the series, La Tech completes the sweep, as improbable as that sounds. The southern dogs are on a roll. They are right there with San Jose State and New Mexico State which are all ½ game behind the leader Nevada. This game went back and forth but a four-run sixth tied it at seven until the dogs pushed across a run in the top of the ninth to win it. Hawaii didn't go down without a fight, however, as they had runners on second and third with one out. Even a productive out scores a run and a hit wins it but the next two Rainbow batters struck out and that was it. Freshman Mike Jefferson got the win (2-2) but not without the help of three other freshmen pitchers who followed him in the ninth inning. An interesting line was Jamelle Clements' who was Tech's final pitcher. He struck out the final batter but only threw one pitch. What? Well, yeah, he comes in with two strikes on the batter, finishes the job, and gets credit for the strikeout and the save to boot. My hat is off to LaTech and their freshmen-laden pitching staff. 2922 fans have their hats off in mourning.

Fresno State 8/12 – Nevada 6/5

Alan Ahmady's walkoff two-run homerun won it in dramatic fashion as the Bulldogs came from a 6-3 deficit to pull this one out. Tom Mendonca contributed his 19th homerun as the dogs won the first game of the doubleheader. Senior righthander Holden Sprague gets the win (4-2) in relief by pitching one inning of shutout ball. Nick Melino went 2 for 4 as he continues his hitting in this series at Fresno and I can't think of much more to say about this game as the mutts stave off losing three in a row with this win. The second game was decided by the third inning as the Bulldogs posted seven runs in the second inning and five in the third to go up 12 – 1 and coasted to a doubleheader sweep and a 2-2 split in the series. Holden Sprague got the win in this game just as he did the first game but he went the distance in this game in winning his fifth game against two losses. By winning both games Fresno is back in the thick of things but still in last place but not by much as only 3.5 games separate the last and first place teams. Wow, what a tight race. Sprague gets my vote for WAC pitcher of the week in winning both game of a doubleheader (one by being the starter and finisher) and Nick Melino of Nevada gets my vote for WAC hitter of the week. Tom Mendonca hit his 20th homerun in the second game by the way. 2441 fans watched this game and show that both Fresno and Hawaii lead the WAC in attendance by so much it's not funny.

San Jose State 10 – Sacramento State 9

The Spartans won this one in incredible fashion to avoid being swept in a rain-shortened two game series. It remains to be seen how the other two games will be handled as a lot is at stake. The Spartans are close enough that two wins might mean a title and the Hornets want to stay out of the cellar. In any event, the boys in blue won this game by scoring seven runs in the last two innings to pull out of a 9-3 hole. The Hornets Tim Wheeler ‘s two homeruns (17) and four RBIs helped put them in that hole. I'll have to hand it to Anthony Vega, Steve Connolly, and Jack Adams as they kept the Hornets off the board for the last four innings to give the offense a chance to pull it out even though Vega allowed two inherited runners to score in the bottom of the sixth inning before shutting the door with the bases loaded. Whew! The five runs scored in the top of the ninth were highlighted by John Shaffer's RBI which proved to be the game-winner. Clutch pinch hits were provided by Karson Klauer and Tyler Heil to keep the inning (and game) going as there were far too many heroes to mention. Of some concern was Ryan Shopshire's ineffective start as he survived only two innings in giving up seven runs and eight hits putting the Spartans in a 7-1 hole which took them the whole game to overcome. And overcome the hole they did before 168 fans.



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Don Starks is the Baseball Editor of Inside Sparta. You may contact Don with any questions, comments, or tips at don@insidesparta.com

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