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Rebels recover from losing series, breeze to baseball rout over BYU

Brigham Young’s radio play-by-play announcer lamented on air how he wished the Cougars played UNLV in baseball more often.

One solution would be for BYU to rejoin the Mountain West, the conference it abandoned two years ago for football independence and the West Coast Conference in other sports.

And after Monday, UNLV — or at least its baseball program — probably would gladly assist any Cougars efforts to return. Well, at least if it has more games such as this 10-3 win at Wilson Stadium.

It was an important victory for UNLV (16-5), which lost two of three games over the weekend to Mountain West preseason favorite New Mexico. The series loss dropped the previously No. 21 Rebels out of the Baseball America poll.

“It was a disappointing weekend for us,” coach Tim Chambers said. “We expected to win the series. This was good to bounce back from losing a series.”

UNLV scored in the first five innings to build a 9-3 lead over BYU (9-11), removing any mystery fairly early.

The only time the Cougars threatened to make it competitive occurred in the third inning, when Adam Law delivered a two-out, three-run double to bring them to within 4-3.

UNLV starting pitcher Mark Shannon told himself, “They’re not getting any more.”

And the Cougars didn’t, with Shannon allowing six hits over seven innings.

But he wasn’t completely pleased with his performance. In running his record to 3-0, his ERA actually rose to 1.61.

“That was not one of my better outings,” Shannon said. “I was struggling to find the zone. I managed to battle through it, though, and to only give up three runs is pretty good.”

UNLV’s hitters, including Shannon himself with two hits and two RBIs, did plenty to back his performance on the mound.

The Rebels scored in all but two innings, finishing with 14 hits. Five batters had multiple hits, including leadoff man Joey Armstrong.

“There’s not a hole in the lineup,” Armstrong said. “If one day somebody doesn’t do it, another person steps up.”

Armstrong knew he had to step up when he found out an hour before the game he would lead off because Joey Swanner had injured an arm the day before. Armstrong, who had been batting sixth, went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

“Nothing really changes,” Armstrong said. “Just try to get deep in the count and see more pitches.

“I saw a lot of pitches. I got really good pitches to hit, which is what I was looking for. I saw a couple of balls up, and drove them like I wanted to.”

The Rebels return to conference play with a three-game series at San Diego State beginning Friday.

With a 1-2 record in the Mountain West, UNLV already feels a sense of urgency in the conference race. Chambers, looking at the big picture of an NCAA regional bid, knows taking at least two games from the Aztecs is important.

“Third or fourth place in the league is not going to be good enough for us,” Chambers said. “You can’t finish fourth in our league and expect to get a bid. We’ve got to win some games.

“Fortunately for us, we get to play everybody six times. We’ve got to make up some ground somewhere on the road.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

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