As far as coach Gary Powers is concerned, the Nevada Wolf Pack baseball team got what it deserved on Sunday at Peccole Park.
“If you don’t come out and play hard every single day, you’ll get beat in this league,” Pack coach Gary Powers said. “We didn’t have the same mental toughness we had the first two days at all with our starting pitching, with our bullpen and with our guys in the lineup.”
The Wolf Pack, hoping for a three-game sweep of the Air Force Falcons in their first Mountain West series of the season, came out flat and were beaten 7-3 in front of 607 fans. The Pack, which beat the Falcons 3-2 and 6-1 on Friday and Saturday to stretch their winning streak to four, fell to 13-7 overall and 2-1 in the Mountain West while Air Force improved to 6-12, 1-2.
“We didn’t finish the job,” Powers said. “We didn’t come out and compete like we did the first two games. We just came out and went through the motions.”
Air Force, scored more runs in the third inning (four) than they did in the first two games of the series combined. The Falcons got four hits in the third, including a two-run homer by Peter Johnson, to jump all over Pack starter Tom Jameson.
“I made one bad pitch,” said Jameson, who fell to 0-4 with the loss.
Jameson lasted just 5.2 innings and didn’t have an easy time in any of them. Even the one inning he retired the side in order -- the second -- right fielder Brooks Klein had to make an outstanding over-the-shoulder catch in front of the warning track to rob an extra base hit from the Falcons.
“I feel bad for him,” said Powers of Jameson. “He’s not doing the things he needs to do to be successful. He’s not throwing on a downward plane, he’s not getting ground balls, when he’s releasing the ball he’s falling all over the mound. Everything is a struggle for him right now.”
It has actually been a struggle for the 6-foot-7 senior over the past three weeks. The big right-hander now has an 8.73 earned run average over five appearances (four starts) and 22.2 innings. He’s allowed 20 hits and 14 earned runs over his last 10.2 innings.
“It’s just a grind right now,” He said.
Jameson’s struggles all began with a rare two-inning relief appearance (instead of his normal start) against Holy Cross on March 3 when he allowed three runs and five hits. He followed that up by allowing five earned runs and seven hits in three innings in a start at Utah Valley four days later and then came Sunday when he allowed six earned runs, two walks and eight hits in 5.2 innings against Air Force.
Jameson picked off an Air Force runner to end the third inning and then pitched a scoreless fourth and fifth innings before getting in trouble again in the sixth. He gave up a pair of singles to the eighth and ninth-place hitters with two outs in the sixth and then hit leadoff hitter Garrett Custons to load the bases. Powers pulled him for freshman Adam Whitt (Carson High) who promptly forced in two runs with two walks as the Falcons took a 6-0 lead.
“This is probably as good as I‘ve felt in a long time out there,” Jameson said. “My (split-fingered fastball) was dirty. I just made a couple mistakes.”
Powers, though, is worried about his senior. Jameson, after all, was 7-2 last year with a 2.55 ERA and was 19-9 over his first three seasons.
“He doesn’t have any command out there,” Powers said. “There’s nothing we can go to that will get him out of trouble. He doesn’t have anything to keep people honest with right now. His location is off with everything he throws.”
Whitt (three walks in 1.2 innings) and fellow reliever Daniel Levine combined to allow a hit and a run on three walks in the next two innings in relief of Jameson. Kody Gorden, though, was effective, finishing the game with 1.1 scoreless innings while striking out three.
“We can’t expect our starting pitchers to go seven or eight innings in every start,” Powers said. “We need someone in the bullpen to go out there with their hair on fire and challenge people.”
Bradey Shipley went eight innings on Friday and Tyler Wells went 7.1 innings on Saturday as the Pack won the first two games of the series.
“If our bullpen can’t perform better than that we’re not going to win many series in this league,” Powers said.
The Wolf Pack offense came to life in the sixth inning as Tommy Niebergall tripled in Austin Byler and Ryan Teel singled home Niebergall to cut Air Force’s lead to 6-2. Byler then singled in Jamison Rowe in the seventh to pull the Pack within 6-3.
Rowe had two hits and a walk from the leadoff spot. The Pack had seven hits odd four Air Force pitchers.
“The first two days we had a team approach to hitting and we took advantage of the opportunities we got,” Powers said. “Today we had some guys who were stubborn, who went against the grain and tried to pull everything. When we had success the first two days, it was going up the middle and the opposite field because that’s where they were pitching us all weekend. But today, for some reason, we had two or three guys who all they wanted to do was pull the ball.”
The Wolf Pack will play at San Francisco on Tuesday before opening up a three-game Mountain West series at New Mexico on Friday.