UNLV turned in its strongest offensive performance of the season Sunday against UNR, finishing with a season-high 14 hits.
But it still wasn’t enough to halt the Mountain West’s top-hitting team.
The Rebels blew an early three-run lead and gave up 16 hits as the Wolf Pack claimed an 8-5 win in the series finale at Wilson Stadium. UNR (13-2, 5-1 MW) gained sole possession of first place in the conference after New Mexico’s 10-8 loss to San Diego State.
“It’s a tough loss,” said UNLV senior Dylan Ellis, who finished 2-for-4 with one RBI. “It was a big game, and we played really well in the beginning. It’s a tough one to take. But we just have to come back as a team. I’m fully confident we’ll bounce back.”
UNLV (7-7, 1-5 MW), which led 3-0 after the first inning, chased UNR starter Barry Timko after 2/3 of an inning.
Leadoff man Joey Armstrong scored on a sacrifice fly by Erik VanMeetren to make the score 1-0, and Morgan Stotts and Ellis each had an RBI single to give the Rebels a 3-0 lead.
Evan McMahan, one of five UNR pitchers, stopped the early damage by getting shortstop Nick Rodriguez, UNLV’s No. 9 hitter, to fly to right with the bases loaded to end the first.
The Wolf Pack cut into the lead in the third off an error by Stotts at first base, then got an RBI single by Trenton Brooks to make the score 3-2.
In the fourth, VanMeetren hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot to left field, to extend the Rebels’ lead to 4-2.
But the Wolf Pack never went away, scoring five runs in the fifth on six hits, including four doubles and a two-run homer by Jordan Pearce, to go up 7-4.
“Just a couple of unlucky pitches,” said VanMeetren, a senior catcher. “We started leaving the ball over the plate a little bit, not executing, not hitting our spots. That’s a damn good hitting team.”
UNLV got a run back in the bottom of the fifth on a RBI single by Armstrong, but UNR got it back on a squeeze bunt in the seventh.
“I take a lot of responsibility for (their comeback),” VanMeetren said. “I put down the wrong numbers today. That’s a lot on me. Pitching did OK. You’re not always going to have the best stuff, and your offense is going to have to pick you up. We didn’t today.”
The Rebels stranded 12 runners.
UNLV starter Bryan Bonnell (1-2) took the loss after going 4 1/3 innings. The junior gave up nine hits and six runs while striking out three and walking one.
Justin Jones was 3-for-5 with a run and a stolen base for UNLV.
UNR’s Kewby Meyer went 3-for-6 with two doubles.
The Rebels begin a four-game trip at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Arizona State.
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.