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Baseball Has Tough Competition with March Madness

This is the time of year when all sports take a back seat to March Madness. Yeah, I agree but not convinced. I'll still post my pathetic intrusions upon the basketball (the "other" roundball) imagination of most of the country. Back to business. The MWC had a few good series this past weekend. New Mexico took it to Fresno State and UNLV took two of three from the Spartans in San Jose. That puts the Rebels and the Aztecs in the cat bird seat. I think that's proper usage of that old phrase.

Tyler Wells pitches a complete game gem in loss
Tyler Wells pitches a complete game gem in loss
John Byrne

Some Surprises from the Weekend's Games

The Lobos made a strong shouted out statement in Fresno as they sweep the Dawgs but UNLV still remains the early front runner showing off strong pitching taking 2 of 3 from SJS. The rest of the games were OOC games and three were worthy of note. Air Force got their bats stolen or something as they get swept by Nebraska-Omaha. That's ugly. Is basketball on the tube, uh, flat screen, yet?

Air Force (4-13) at Nebraska-Omaha (8-8)
This is one of the bigger surprises of the past weekend. Not a good one for the MWC I might add. The Falcons go into, I think Omaha, and lose all three in convincing fashion. That puts their losing streak at 7 and things don't look to get any better as they play Kansas State in two games. I actually thought they'd win two out of three but they didn't compete. I don't know what to say. The Falcons need to get it together, now.

New Mexico (12-7, 4-2) at Fresno State (13-7, 5-4)
The Bulldogs had everything going for them; home field, 4 game streak, and the glow of putting a beating on Texas A&M a while back. Not enough. The Lobos came to town and put a serious bite on the back side of the mutts as they sweep and the games were fairly close; all within 2 runs. Game one. Wow, get there soon and sit down as things happened quickly. New Mexico's Drew Bridges got hammered as he lasted 1+ innings. But then the Lobos beat up on Jordan Brink as they put up 4 runs in the top of the second. Final score was 9-7 but the story was defense. The mutts committed 5 errors (five! First letter F!). I can hear Coach Batesole after that one; a lot of burn marks on tender egos I'd bet. Colton Thomson (2-2) was in control in his stint on the mound as the Lobos won game two 6-2. It was scoreless until the seventh when the Lobos scored 4 to put it away. Fresno State's Jimmy Lambert (1-2) also pitched well in his 6 innings but weakened as he gave up 2 of the 4 runs in the seventh. The final game went the Lobos' way 6-4 as they scored two runs in the top of the ninth to win it. Wow, tough losses or great wins and it all depends who's lookin'.

Nevada (9-10) at Hawaii (8-11)
The Wolf Pack split their four games with the Rainbows. The wins were all pretty much in control of whichever team won but the last was a classic. The Pack's Tyler Wells (0-3) and Hawaii's Scott Kuzminsky (2-2) both pitched a complete game as Hawaii won 1-0 and scored the winner in the first. If you liked offense, stay away as only 4 total hits happened. The run scored on a ground out and that's all it took.

Purdue (1-14) at San Diego State (16-4)
Do you see that 1 in the win column above? Yeah, tough season for the Boilermakers. It continued in San Diego as the Aztecs smacked Purdue in all four games and it was mostly due to lack of pitching. The pitching gave up 43 runs as the offense produced 17 runs. Hard to win when you're always behind. No reason to pick over the body.

UNLV (13-5,7-2) at San Jose State (6-15, 3-6)
If nothing else the Rebels showed they have the starting pitching to make the long push to the title. They also showed, in my humble opinion, what they may lack to finish it off. I won't go into gory details but the first game was ugly for the Spartans as their pitching showed the holes they have all season. This time in spades. Erick Fedde (3-1) looked like the future pro as he shut down the Spartans in a sleep-walking performance. He was dealing. He went 7 innings giving up no earned runs to lower his ERA to 1.59. Three out of their four starters have ERAs under 2.00. The Spartans looked sunk. Game two was a bit of a change. The Spartans kept it as close as you could but still lost 2-1. They couldn't muster more than 3 hits. John Richy (4-0), the "bum" of the group at 2.23 was in pretty much complete control as he pitched a complete game. San Jose State got the message, I think, as they came out ready to play the third game. And play they did as they won 3-2 by pushing across a run in the bottom of the bottom of the eighth and it held up. Bryan Bonnell went 7 innings for the Rebels giving up only 1 earned run and he looked as good as advertised. Kalei Contrades went 7 2/3 strong innings for the Spartans in his first start of the season. He is by far the best arm on the staff and he showed it with no walks and 7 strikeouts. He weakened in the eighth but expect to see more of him as a starter. He's a great closer but the Spartans can't afford to keep him in the pen. So, the Spartans showed good pitching against one of the best teams in the MWC and beat them once. Is that a sign of things to come for this pitching which has been so bad? We'll see this weekend. UNLV showed me that they certainly have the starting pitching but I don't know about the middle relief (didn't need it here) and the hitting. Games! I want more games!