Austin Byler missed one chance to deliver late for Nevada, but he certainly nailed the second.
The Wolf Pack slugger, a ninth-round pick by the Washington Nationals in the June 2014 amateur draft who returned for his senior season, belted a one-out home run in the bottom of the 10th as Nevada completed its rally from a six-run hole to beat Fresno State 9-8 on Friday in a Mountain West Conference opener.
Afternoon games Saturday and Sunday close out the three-game series at Peccole Park in Reno.
Byler had come up with two on and nobody out in the eighth and the Wolf Pack down three only to foul out off Bulldogs reliever Jake Shull. But fellow Wolf Pack preseason All-Mountain West selection Trenton Brooks followed two batters later with a three-run homer off a 3-2 pitch to make it 8-8.
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A strange finish seemed to make sense after a wild first half to in a game in which Bulldogs sophomore right-hander Jimmy Lambert — designated as the early-season Friday night ace — flashed no-hit stuff for three innings but was pulled with two outs in the fourth after issuing his seventh walk.
Nevada had just one run to show for all that wildness, however, on a bases-loaded walk in the first. And when the Bulldogs rolled a seven in the top of the fifth, they seemed well in control. Jesse Medrano had a two-run single and Taylor Ward a three-run double.
A walk to Byler to lead off the bottom of the fifth was followed by a hit batsman and eventually a wild pitch that got Byler home to make it 7-2 and ex-Chabot JC star Ryan Howell’s bases-loaded triple in the sixth cut it to 7-5.
Austin Guibor singled home what Fresno State hoped was just an insurance run in the top of the eighth. It wasn’t enough, as Mark Reece — who had come on in the sixth and yielded Howell’s triple but bounced back to strike out a pair of hitters — started the bottom of the eight by allowing back-to-back singles.
Batesole turned to Shull, the reigning Mountain West pitcher of the week after picking up two wins against UC Irvine, after Nevada’s first two batters reached in the eighth. Shull got Byler and Howell on popouts but yielded Brooks’ tying shot to right and was still on the mound in the 10th for Byler’s game-winner.
Fresno State had one mild look at a go-ahead rally in the 10th, when Guibor hit one into the alley and easily cruised into second for an apparent double. But the Wolf Pack successfully appealed that he missed first base and the frustration grew when Taylor Tempel followed with a double.
Nevada’s Adam Whitt, completing a pair of scoreless frames, got Medrano on a groundout to end the inning. The Wolf Pack bullpen allowed seven hits but just two runs in six innings after starter Michael Fain (Clovis High) was chased without getting an out in the fifth.
Fain was charged with six runs (four earned) on five hits and four walks.