The largest crowd in Peccole Park history witnessed one of the most unexpected Nevada Wolf Pack losses since the park opened in 1988.
A crowd of 3,136 showed up as part of the athletic department’s Populate Peccole promotion on Sunday afternoon expecting to see more of what took place in the first two games of the series against San Jose State. The Pack whipped the Spartans 12-0 on Friday and 27-2 on Saturday and had won four consecutive games against their long-time northern California rivals this season by a combined score of 65-5. In addition, the struggling Spartans had lost six games in a row and 23 of their last 26 going into Sunday. And, oh yeah, the Pack had won 19 of its first 21 games at Peccole Park while San Jose State, on the other hand, had lost 24-of-26 on the road.
It was expected to be a walk in the park for the Pack and it was going to be seen by the unofficial 15th largest city in the state of Nevada with Peccole bulging at the seams with fans. It turned out to be another case of the Tortoise vs. the Hare as the Spartans stunned the Pack 6-4 to salvage the final game of the three-game Mountain West series.
Yes, the Pack lost to a Turtle. Rashann Kalib Kaeleo Ika Imi Loa Kuhaulua, whose nickname is Turtle, made his first college start and pitched 5.1 innings, allowing six hits and four runs, while striking out three and walking one. The 6-foot-1 right-handed freshman earned his second victory of the year (2-2). The first 14 appearances this year for the Hawaiian native were all in relief.
Kuhaulua, though, had a lot of help.
The Spartans gave the freshman a 4-0 lead before he even stepped on the mound. San Jose State roughed up Pack starter Jason Deitrich for four runs on five hits in just one inning, scoring twice as many runs in the first inning on Sunday as they had in the first two games of the series combined. Chris Williams and Corey Olivet had RBI singles in the inning and Joe Stefanki had a two-run double.
The outing was Deitrich’s shortest among his 24 career starts in a Wolf Pack uniform. The 6-foot-6 senior suffered the loss to fall to 5-3 on the year with a 3.68 earned run average.
The Pack, which scored 10 runs in one inning on Saturday, got one of the runs back in the bottom of the first on Ryan Howell’s 14th home run of the season. Howell now also has 57 RBI.
Kuhaulua, though, blanked the Pack in the second, third and fourth innings to preserve his 4-1 lead.
The Spartans took a 5-1 lead in the fifth off Pack reliever Cameron Rowland on a one-out home run by David Campbell. The Pack came right back and scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth to slice the Spartans’ lead to just 5-4. Jordan Pearce doubled and scored on a single by Ryan Teel. Kyle Hunt doubled Teel to third. Teel then scored on a Kuhaulua wild pitch and Hunt scored on a ground out by Austin Byler.
The Wolf Pack would never score again.
The Spartans added a run in the sixth off Rowland on a RBI single by Brett Bautista.
Matt Brown somehow escaped harm over the final 3.2 innings to earn his first save of the year. Brown allowed just two hits and no runs despite walking three. Brown got Teel to ground into an inning-ending double play with two runners on base in the sixth and got Trenton Brooks to ground out with runners on second and third to end the seventh.
San Jose State outhit the Pack 12-8 as Stefanki had three hits and Campbell and Bautista had two each. Pearce had three of the Pack’s eight hits.
JoJo Romero did his best to give the Pack a chance to win, shutting out the Spartans over the final 3.1 innings. Romero allowed three hits and two walks while striking out one.
The last time the Pack lost after scoring 20 or more runs in a victory against the same team the day before was in 2005 to St. Mary’s (a 21-10 win followed by a 9-5 loss). It also happened in recent years against Fresno State in 2003, Arizona in 2000 and New Mexico State in 1998.
The Wolf Pack’s loss made things a bit more interesting in the Mountain West race. The Pack saw its lead in the conference cut to two games with six to play. The Wolf Pack (33-11 overall) still leads the Mountain West at 18-6, followed by San Diego State at 16-8. New Mexico is in third place at 13-8 followed by Fresno State (11-10), Air Force (10-14), UNLV (6-15) and San Jose State (4-17). The Spartans’ four Mountain West victories have come against the Wolf Pack (two), San Diego State and Air Force.