UNLV HOME GAME, MARCH 24, GAME ONE
The Hustlin’ Rebels were defeated 2-1 by the Fresno State Bulldogs in the first game of the first series at Earl E. Wilson Stadium. With the loss, the Rebels fell to 7-12, and Fresno State moved to 11-9 with the win.
The Hustlin’ Rebels entered the matchup after winning two out of three games against the Nevada Wolf Pack, UNLV’s in-state rival.
With more confidence filling the Rebels bullpen, UNLV looked to improve its overall record and pick up where it left off against the Wolf Pack with a win against the Bulldogs.
Fresno State entered this series coming off back-to-back losses from the New Mexico Lobos and the Long Beach Dirtbags.
While the Bulldogs entered the three-game set with a winning record, Fresno had yet to play its best. They had struggled to manufacture runs early in the season and were looking to turn that around against the Rebels.
The Friday night game featured a pitching matchup between the Rebels’ right-handed Noah Beal (1-2) and the Bulldogs’ southpaw Ixan Henderson (3-1).
Beal had begun to correct his start to the season during his last start against the Wolf Pack with seven innings of work and only allowing two runs during that game.
Conversely, Henderson had been reliable for the Bulldogs, pitching 35 innings this season with an impressive 2.83 ERA over that stretch. His most recent performance came from an eighth-inning start in his win against the Lobos.
The game started with each team playing exceptionally cautiously. It was as if each team knew how essential runs would be to come across in this game.
After a solid first two innings from Beal not allowing a hit, the Rebels struck first on the scoreboard.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Rebels took advantage of one of the few mistakes the Bulldogs made in this contest and scratched across the first run of the ballgame.
Alex Pimentel was able to lead off the inning with a hard-hit liner to left field, allowing the Rebels plenty of time to advance him into scoring position.
With one out in the inning, Henderson would spike a curveball in front of the plate, and Bulldog catcher Tyler Davis could not keep the ball in front of him, allowing Pimentel to advance to second.
Immediately after the past ball, the Rebels shortstop Paul Myro placed a ball into right field to score Pimentel and take the 1-0 lead.
The Rebels played confidently with the lead as Beal continued to find success on the mound until the top of the fourth inning.
The Bulldogs scored its first run of the ballgame after a fielder’s choice on a ground ball hit by Jaden Sheppard.
After a good jump by the designated hitter Tommey Hopfe, he crossed the plate quickly, evening the score 1-1.
After this inning, every pitch was called cautiously as each starter knew the importance of each at bat.
Beal would throw eight innings, allowing only one run while striking out four batters. Henderson would only throw eight innings but struck out seven UNLV batters.
Only when the game had gone to the extra frame was the contest decided. It was the top of the tenth inning, and the Rebels reliever Sam Simon was on the mound.
Simon had been a reliable arm for the Rebels out of the bullpen in the young season. However, the Bulldogs got the better of him in a high-pressure situation scoring the eventual game-winning run.
After a leadoff single from Grady Morgan, the catcher Davis would make up for his mistake in the second inning, smoking a double into the gap to give the Bulldogs the 2-1 edge.
In the bottom of the tenth, DH Hopfe would be subbed into pitch and close out the game, and he accomplished that task. To seal the victory, he earned the save in four batters, including two strikeouts.
Although it was a tight game, it still counts as a loss in the standings for the Rebels as its early season woes continue.
UNLV HOME GAME, MARCH 25, GAME TWO
The Hustlin’ Rebels were defeated 7-5 by the Fresno State Bulldogs in extra innings on Game 2 of their first series at Earl E. Wilson Stadium since their road trip. With the loss, the Rebels fell to 7-13, and Fresno State moved to 12-9 with the win.
During the game on Friday, the theme of the series was set, with solid pitching performances and limited opportunities at the plate that would be presented through the series’ final two games.
The weekend’s second game featured a pitching matchup between the Rebels’ right-hander Jordan Hanson (1-1)and the Bulldogs’ southpaw Jake Dixon (2-2).
This game would be the first Mountain West Conference game start of the season for Hanson, as he seemed to prove himself to the coaching staff with his prior relief outings, such as his last appearance against the Nevada Wolfpack.
Hanson threw six innings in relief of Joey Acosta in a win over the wolfpack, proving that he also has the stamina to give this rotation another arm in any given series.
Jake Dixon had been up and down on the other side of the ball to start the season. He had solid performances to begin the year against teams such as Arizona and Omaha but struggled in his most recent outing against the New Mexico Lobos.
Dixon conceded five runs in just two innings of work and struggled to find the strike zone early, walking two batters.
In the first game of the series, both teams struggled to scratch runs on the board; however, in this matchup, it was the battle of which team would capitalize on their chances first.
Hanson and Dixon began the game retiring each side to set the tone for a highly contested matchup.
The first runs of the ballgame were scored in the second and third inning by the Fresno State Bulldogs. The Bulldogs were set up for success in both innings by errors made in the UNLV infield.
In the second inning, despite quality pitching from Hanson, A throwing error by Chase Gallegos would cost the Rebels a run as he threw a ball into the outfield resulting in a run scored.
Hanson was able to work his way out of the jam with runners on second and third to get out of the inning keeping the score 1-0 Bulldogs.
During the third inning, it would be another error by Edarian Williams that would lead to a Fresno State run after a one-out double by second baseman Ben Newton.
Hanson was again able to get out of the inning, only allowing one run, but the damage was done, and Fresno State led the game 2-0.
Bulldog pitcher Dixon on the other side of the game, had been pitching excellently up until the fourth inning, where he was in trouble for the first time in the start.
The Rebels managed to get runners on first and second with nobody out to begin the bottom half of the fourth inning and, after a deep flyout to right field, advanced Alex Pinmentel to third to put the runners at the corners.
Chase Gallegos was able to put the ball in play for a fielder’s choice resulting in an RBI that brought in the Rebels first run of the game.
The game was quiet until the top of the sixth when the Bulldogs would extend their lead to 4-1 off a two-run double from Tyler Davis.
Davis was the hero from game one of this series as he batted in the eventual winning run on a hard-hit double into a similar gap.
Eventually, this game climaxed during the eighth inning, where the Bulldogs would add one more run in the top half.
During the bottom half of the inning, the Rebels knew they only had six out remaining in the contest to attempt to come back, and they made the most of every pitch.
After two quick strikeouts, Santino Panoaro would begin a late-inning rally with a single to right field. That would start three straight hits for the Rebels to load the bases.
The Rebels would get their first run on the board since the fourth inning on a walk to make the score 7-1, bringing up Kade Higgins.
In the most prominent spot of the game, Hiigins came into the batters’ box and ripped a double down the left field line clearing the bases and tying the game 5-5.
Eventually, despite the late-inning heroics by Higgins, the Rebels would fall to the bulldogs 7-5 in the eleventh inning of play after reliever Noah Carabajal gave up two runs in the top half of the inning.
This series marks their second Mountain West Conference series loss to start the season.