The UNLV baseball team used timely hitting throughout its lineup and strong pitching from sophomore Kenny Oakley to wrap up a successful homestand with an 8-3 win over Utah Valley on Tuesday at Wilson Stadium.
The Rebels (17-7), who went 4-1 on the homestand, overcame a first-inning 1-0 deficit with single runs in each of the first three innings. They broke it open with five runs in the bottom of the seventh as they batted around.
It began with Edgar Montes’ solo home run to left-center field, his first of the year. Patrick Armstrong followed later in the inning with a three-run homer to right field to increase the lead to 7-1. It was Armstrong’s second homer of the season, scoring Joey Armstrong and T.J. White ahead of him. The fifth run of the inning came when Morgan Stotts’ doubled to left with two outs, scoring Erik VanMeetren.
That was more than enough for Oakley, a right-hander who went 7 1/3 impressive innings to get his first victory of the season in improving to 1-2. Oakley gave up a solo homer to Greyson Bogden in the first, then retired 13 straight batters. He finished with a career-high 10 strikeouts, walked just one and scattered five hits before giving way to Brayden Torres. The sophomore left-hander struck out four but allowed a two-run, two-out homer to Craig Brinkerhoff in the ninth.
“He was too slow coming to the plate that first inning,” UNLV coach Tim Chambers said of Oakley. “But once we got him going a little quicker, he got into a nice groove. He was pounding the (strike) zone and made a lot of quality pitches.”
Chambers said the Rebels who were piecing together runs early on were more like the team he expects rather than the one that exploded for five runs in the seventh.
“Our goal is to get a run an inning,” Chambers said. “This group feeds off each other, and they find ways to score runs.”
UNLV begins a nine-game trip, its longest of the season, Friday at Nebraska. The Rebels will play the Cornhuskers three times, then a game Monday at Creighton, followed by three Mountain West games at Fresno State April 4 to 6 before concluding with two nonconference games at Arkansas on April 8 and 9.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Chambers said. “It will likely define our season. But Pat’s starting to hit for us, and we’ve been pitching well all year. If our pitching holds up, I think we can come out of it in good shape.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.