RENO, Nev. – The 29th-ranked Nevada baseball team put on an offensive clinic with its most runs in nearly five years to sweep its four-game series against Cincinnati. Junior Ryan Howell hit a grand slam and the Wolf Pack (20-4) defeated the Bearcats, 17-6, Saturday afternoon at Peccole Park.
Nevada scored eight runs in the third inning and finished with 17 runs and 16 hits to improve to 13-1 at home. The Pack tallied its most runs since scoring 18 in an 18-1 victory over Louisiana Tech on May 22, 2010. Nevada has won seven straight games to match its longest win streak of the season. The Pack has now swept four series on the season to eclipse last year’s sweep total through just 20 games.
Every starter recorded a hit and scored a run for Nevada while four student-athletes recorded multi-hit and multi-RBI games. Howell went 4-of-5 with six RBI and two runs while freshman designated hitter Grant Fennell went 3-of-4 with four RBI and three runs. Nevada’s 11-run victory set its highest margin of victory of the season.
Head coach Jay Johnson’s Pack closed a streak of five games in five days and eight games in the past nine days with a 7-1 record. This year’s Nevada ball club is the fastest team to hit the 20-win plateau in program history.
“This team showed a lot of mental toughness over the last five days and played a lot of good baseball,” said Johnson. “This was a good series against a talented team in Cincinnati. I’m proud of our guys for their effort.”
Cincinnati opened a 1-0 lead before Nevada plated four runs in the bottom of the first to claim the lead. Fennell and senior Jordan Devencenzi each recorded two-RBI hits. The Bearcats scored three runs in the second inning to tie the game, 4-4.
The Pack – who set a season-high with 17 team RBI – blew the game open with eight runs in the third inning. Again, Fennell and Devencenzi drove in two runs with a single and double before freshman Cal Stevenson hit a two-RBI single. With an 8-4 lead, Nevada loaded the bases for Howell. On a 0-1 count, the Brentwood, Calif., native cleared the bases with the Pack’s second grand slam of the season. Howell now has eight home runs and 36 RBI.
Nevada kept its foot on the gas pedal with three runs in the fourth inning to claim a 15-4 lead. Stevenson tripled to right center to plate one run before senior Kyle Hunt hit an RBI double. Howell singled to left center to score Hunt and expand the Pack lead to 11.
The Bearcats scored two runs in the fifth frame before Fennell hit an RBI single in the fifth and Howell hit a sac fly to score Byler, who reached third on a triple, in the sixth inning as Nevada reached 17 runs.
Cincinnati was held scoreless in the final four innings as the Wolf Pack won its first four-game series of the year.
Junior RHP Michael Fain improved to 3-0, logging five innings while allowing six runs on six hits with six strikeouts. Junior RHP Zach Wilkins lowered his ERA to 0.71 after allowing just one hit in three scoreless innings of relief Freshman Jordan Pearce pitched in the ninth inning, allowing one hit while closing the decisive Wolf Pack victory.
Howell (4-of-6), Fennell (3-of-4), Devencenzi (2-of-4) and Stevenson (2-of-4) led a juggernaut display for Nevada. The Pack recorded 17 hits on 39 at bats to hit .410 as a team. The Wolf Pack outscored the Bearcats 40-23 on the series while batting .367 overall.
Nevada will return to action Tuesday, hosting Sacramento State at 4 p.m. PT at Peccole Park. The Wolf Pack defeated the Hornets (12-9) by a 6-2 margin last Tuesday. Nevada will then return to conference play March 27-29, traveling to San Jose State.