The UNLV Hustlin’ Rebels took to the field for the first time this season on Friday, Feb. 17, against the Pacific University Tigers. The Rebels performed in all facets of the game to take the victory in the home opener by a score of 14-6.
Home Opener, Feb. 17
The Hustlin’ Rebels were looking to get off to a hot start on Friday against the Pacific University Tigers in the first game of a three-game series.
This would be the Rebels’ home opener, drawing a large crowd to Earl E. Wilson Stadium, where the atmosphere was electric. Everyone was anticipating the opening ceremony and the first pitch to kick off the Rebels 2023 campaign.
This game featured a pitching matchup between junior right-handed pitcher Noah Beal for the Hustlin’ Rebels and the left-handed senior Grant Stevens for the Tigers.
The game would start with a quick one-two-three inning from Noah Beal setting down the Tigers in order. However, this would not be the case when UNLV came to the plate.
Like Beal, Stevens would retire the first two batters he faced, but the third batter, Jacob Sharp, hit a hard ground ball to Pacific shortstop Chaz Myers who could not make the play resulting in an error and some life for the Rebel offense.
With good at-bats following the opportunity provided by Sharp, the Rebels would put up four runs with two outs in the inning, capped off by a two-RBI double from newcomer Paul Myro.
With the significant lead the Rebels had established early on, it took much pressure off Beal in the starting pitching spot. He was able to build confidence in this position as he would only give up four runs in four innings pitched.
Despite the Tigers’ best efforts, they could not string together many hits in a row off Beal and relied on mental miscues from the Rebels to score its runs.
Before the game, the storyline was that the Rebels were the sluggers, and the Tigers were the small ball warriors who would have to play mistake-free baseball against the Rebels to pull through with the victory, but this did not happen as the Tigers had three errors in the first three innings.
The Rebels’ offensive numbers in the first three innings were assisted by the first home run of the season coming off the bat of Austin Kryszczuk. Kryszczuk’s 2-run homer to left field in the bottom of the second inning continued the team’s spark after the 4-0 first.
That would not be all the home run trots that would happen Friday evening as transfer students Paul Myro and Kade Higgins would also hit their first home runs of the season in the victory.
The mental and physical mistakes that the Tigers made helped the Rebels jump out to a 12-3 lead after just four innings of play.
To make things worse, the Tigers would lose its star player John-Howard Bobo in the fourth inning after a collision on a head-first dive into second base.
While the Tigers continued to make the ball game competitive, elite relieving from UNLV pitcher Nick Rupp would stop the Tigers’ offense in its tracks, tallying three strikeouts in three innings of work.
During this time, the UNLV offense would not slow down as the lead was extended to 15-4 after seven innings of play.
Strong pitching performances from Beal and Rupp proved too much for the Tigers’ offense in the opening contest.
While the game seemed to be over and many fans began to leave the stadium, the Tigers did not quit as they would force its way out of mercy rule territory and play the full nine-inning game.
However, they could not manage enough offense with such a significant deficit, and the loss of their star player in the game resulted in the Tigers’ loss in the first game of the season by a score of 14-6 to the Hustlin’ Rebels.
This game told the story of two teams in entirely different parts of their development process. The Rebels were more mentally and physically prepared in its home opener than the Tigers, leading to the large margin of victory at Earl E. Wilson Stadium Friday night.