UNLV Baseball sweeps Air Force in three-game series

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Braden Murphy being celebrated by teammates after hitting his first career home run during UNLV's series sweep over Air Force. Photo by Jordan Anders-McClain.

The Hustlin’ Rebels swept the Air Force Falcons in their conference home opening series in a three-game series which extended their perfect record in conference play so far this season to 6-0. 

Game 1: March 18

In game one of the series, the Falcons would get on the board first in the top of the third after Sam Kulasingam hit a double which would score Blake Covin, marking their only run of the game. 

The Rebels would tie the game in the fourth after Henry “Hank” Zeisler would hit the first of two back-to-back RBI triples and send Austin Kryszczuk to score the run. 

Joey Walls would come up to bat and hit the second RBI triple which would score Zeisler, putting the Rebels up 2-1. 

UNLV would extend its lead in the bottom of the sixth after Zeisler would hit a single which would again score Kryszczuk. 

Sitting with two outs on the inning, Air Force would intentionally walk Edarian Williams, bringing up Braden Murphy to the plate, who had struck out at his first two at-bats. 

With two runners on base and two outs, Murphy would hit one down center field which allowed Williams and Zeisler to score, bringing the Rebels lead to 5-1. 

“I just wanted to put something in play,” Murphy said. “Something hard to put some pressure on the defense and it ended up working out and got the two RBI’s in.”

After extending the lead to four, Eric Bigani would hit one to left field which would score Murphy and end the Rebels’ runs for game one of the series.

The Rebels would win 6-1 over the Falcons, continuing their perfect conference play record on the year to 4-0. UNLV’s pitcher Josh Ibarra would be credited with the win after pitching 5.2 innings and only giving up five hits and one run while throwing 10 strikeouts. 

Zeisler was named Rebel of the Game after going 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs and two runs scored.

Game 2: March 19

Troy Balko would start game two of the three-game series as the pitcher for the Rebels, he would give up six hits and three runs in four innings before Noah Beal would take over on the mound.

Beal would be credited with the win after pitching two strikeouts in two innings, only giving up one run on two hits. 

Air Force would get on the board first after scoring one run on two hits in the opening inning. UNLV would take the lead in the bottom of the first after Zeisler would single to right field which would score Rylan Charles and Kryszczuk. 

The Falcons would reclaim the lead in the top of the second after a RBI double by Gabriel Garcia, putting Air Force ahead 3-2.

The bottom of the fourth would be the turning point in the game as the Rebels went on to score seven runs which concluded with Zeisler hitting his fourth home run of the season. 

With the Rebels on top 9-3, the Falcons would hit their first home run of the game closing in on the lead by one in the top of the sixth. 

The five-point lead wasn’t safe enough for the Rebels in the bottom of the sixth, so they added another six runs to the board bringing the score to 15-4, their largest lead of the game. 

Air Force would hit another home run that scored two, closing the gap to 15-6 in the seventh. 

In the eight, the Falcons would add two more runs while UNLV would add in one more. With Rebels on top 17-8, Air Force would hit two more home runs in the top of ninth before getting three outs which would seal the 17-10 victory for the Rebels. 

Murphy was named Rebel of the Game after going 2-for-4 at the plate with one RBI and two runs scored.

Game 3: March 20 

Noah Mattera was the starting pitcher for the final game of the series for UNLV, throwing two back-to-back strikeouts to open the game. Mattera would later be credited with the win after throwing a career-high nine strikeouts in six innings. 

“Today was a very difficult day to pitch,” Mattera said, referring to the strong winds throughout the game. “Early on I felt a little sluggish but I was able to dial it down. Offense really did what they do every game, they put up runs.”

UNLV would get on the board first after Charles scored the first run of the day. Air Force would jump to a 1-3 lead in the top of the second after Jay Thomason hit his third home run of the series.

The Rebels would reclaim the lead in the bottom of the second, scoring four runs to take the lead at 5-3. 

In the bottom of the third, Joey Walls would hit his third home run of the season, earning him Rebel of the Game after going 3-for-4 at the plate with two runs scored and one RBI.

The Falcons would add another on the board to shorten the Rebels lead to only two runs. In the bottom of the sixth, Murphy hit his first career home run for the scarlet and gray, extending the Rebels lead to 7-4. 

“It felt great to get that one out of the way,” Murphy said. “In a 3-2 count I was just trying to put a good swing on the ball. Fortunately, I was able to get a hold of the pitch and it was a great feeling to see the ball go over the fence. Definitely a moment I’ll always remember.” 

UNLV would add one more run on the board in the eighth while the Falcons would only add one more, securing the Rebels 8-5 victory and series sweep. 

Up Next

The Rebels will hit the road for a four-game road trip where they face UC Riverside March 22, and face San Jose State in a three game series beginning March 25.

They return home to face Arizona State University at the Las Vegas Ballpark on March 29, first pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. Students can get their tickets for free at unlvtickets.com.

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