UNLV’s game Sunday began under overcast skies and ended on yet another dreary note for the Rebels — much like the second half of their season.
Before little more than family and friends at Wilson Stadium, the Rebels were playing a San Jose State team trying to knock them out of the top four in the Mountain West standings.
The Spartans succeeded in doing just that with a 10-8 victory, meaning that the Rebels are outside of qualifying for the conference tournament. San Jose State took two of three games from UNLV in this series, and the Spartans won the final two games by a combined 18-13.
“We got outplayed the last two days,” UNLV coach Stan Stolte said. “San Jose did a great job. They came in here and played better than we did the last two games. We’d answer today, and they’d answer three times with a three-spot in three different innings. It’s hard to win games like that.”
This is a season that began with such great promise. UNLV was 20-3 at one point and ranked as high as No. 19 in the nation.
Only the top four make the conference tournament at San Diego beginning May 24. UNLV (30-19, 11-13) is in fifth place with six games remaining — three at home against UNR and three at Fresno State.
“They’re disappointed,” Stolte said of his team. “We’re fighting to get into the postseason, and now we’ve got our backs against the wall and two tough series ahead.”
San Jose State (21-24, 11-12) is tied with Air Force (23-24, 11-12) for third. The fight for the top four, in other words, is incredibly tight.
UNLV leads the Mountain West in several offensive categories and has the hitting to crack the tournament. The Rebels entered Sunday’s game with a league-leading .312 batting average, a number that edged up to .313 after UNLV banged out 13 hits against the Spartans.
The pitching? That’s a different matter.
UNLV has a team ERA of 4.95, not helped Sunday when the Spartans scored seven earned runs on 13 hits. The Rebels sent five pitchers to the mound, with starter Chase Maddux allowing 11 hits and four earned runs (seven total runs) in four innings.
“We didn’t pitch that great today, but we didn’t make some plays behind Chase, too, that should’ve been made that could’ve got him out of a couple of innings,” Stolte said.
San Jose State took the lead for good with three runs in the fourth inning to go up 7-4. The Spartans led by as much as 10-5 before the Rebels scored three runs in the final two innings and even had the potential winning run at first base in the ninth.
Now the Rebels are just trying to make the conference tournament.
“It’s just disappointing,” said UNLV shortstop Bryson Stott, who went 2-for-5 with a double and a run. “Playing all these games and doing what we did at the start of the year and to go into a slump at the wrong time is something we don’t want to do. We’re all sticking together and looking forward to these next six games and doing what we can to get in the tournament.”
Mountain West standings
UNR: 17-6, 25-19
San Diego State: 15-8, 33-15
Air Force: 11-12, 23-24
San Jose State: 11-12, 21-24
UNLV: 11-13, 30-19
Fresno State: 11-16, 26-21
New Mexico: 9-18,16-30-1