UNLV’s pitchers repeatedly limited the damage Saturday, but in allowing 17 hits, they couldn’t erase it.
And the damage, at least as it relates to any postseason hopes, might be too great for the Rebels baseball team.
Their 6-2 loss to San Diego State in the Mountain West tournament at Fresno, Calif., likely ended the Rebels’ season at 37-20. They won’t find out for sure until Monday morning when the 64-team NCAA field is announced.
Coach Tim Chambers is an optimist, so he isn’t ready to concede anything. He also has seen plenty of surprises from his team this season.
“We’re still holding our breath,” he said. “We didn’t get the respect we deserved. I’m guessing they won’t pick us fifth next year. To get 37 wins a year after we were (five) games under .500 with freshmen and sophomores was fun. I feel we’ve turned the corner.”
UNLV was picked fifth in the Mountain West preseason poll, but went on to finish second.
The second-seeded Rebels, though, failed to continue that success in the conference tournament, losing 7-1 to top-seeded New Mexico on Friday and then to No. 3 San Diego State (29-29).
On Saturday, four UNLV pitchers failed to contain Aztecs hitters. Tyler France went 3-for-3 with two RBIs, and Danny Sheehan went 3-for-5 to lead the attack.
San Diego State, amazingly, didn’t score more than six runs with all those hits, leaving 10 runners on base. UNLV’s defense also came up big, throwing out two runners at the plate.
Give up 17 hits, however, and only so much damage can be limited.
San Diego State entered the game with a .266 batting average.
“Unbelievable,” Chambers said of the hit total. “It sucked. I don’t know what the deal was. Certainly, (the Aztecs) haven’t shown the ability to do that a whole bunch.”
UNLV starting pitcher John Richy (7-5) allowed 10 of the hits in five innings and gave up four runs.
The Rebels tried to come back, but for the second game in a row, Chambers bemoaned the number of hard-hit balls right at fielders.
Even so, they scored two runs in the fourth inning on a home run by T.J. White and a run-scoring single by Joey Armstrong to cut the Aztecs’ lead to 3-2.
San Diego State added single runs in the sixth, eighth and ninth innings to hold off the Rebels.
White went 2-for-4 for the Rebels, and Matt McCallister was 2-for-3.
Unless the NCAA selection committee pulls a surprise Monday and sends UNLV to a regional, the Rebels will go their separate ways before most return in September to prepare for the 2014 season.
It was that season Chambers had pointed to as the one where the winning would begin. He didn’t realize the program was a year ahead of schedule, and found even positives to build on Saturday because his team kept playing hard even in the face of defeat.
“We played right,” Chambers said. “I can only really count on one hand the numbers of times we didn’t play right this year. That’s a big cultural change at UNLV, to play right and play hard, and that sets the tone for the future.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.