SJSU overcomes rain and Rebels

By Daniel Reedy:

The Spartans broke out their rainy-day fund for runs to take two out of three from UNLV.

Between the rain, the hail and a five-run deficit to start the game, it looked pretty bleak for San Jose State, but the Spartans shook off the gloom and won 9-5 on Sunday.

The game took over five hours from the original first-pitch time (1 p.m.) to the last out, with two weather delays to blame. The contest didn’t begin until 2:08 p.m.

UNLV came rocking out of the first delay, pounding Spartan starter Graham Gomez for five runs in the first inning, three of which scored on Ernie De La Trinidad’s shot over the right-field wall.

But the game was halted as precipitation began to pour down. The rain was followed by hail and the Spartans had to rush the field to cover it with a tarp.

After a delay of about 40 minutes, play resumed but the Runnin’ Rebels’ momentum did not.

SJSU’s bullpen completely quelled the Rebels, throwing eight and half innings of shut-out ball.

The side-arm Zach Tanner through three of the innings and was followed by Josh Goldberg, Hilario Tovar and closer Joseph Balfour.

We went to the bullpen in the first inning and shut them out the rest of the way … that’s pretty crazy good,” Hawkins said.

The Spartans answered in the fourth as first baseman Shane Timmons blasted a two-run homer. Timmons went 1 for 3 and scored three runs. Much to the amusement of his teammates, Timmons stole second in the seventh inning.

“That was coach’s call,” Timmons said smiling. “I don’t think [UNLV] expected it at all.”

Timmons entered the weekend batting just .125 but went 5 for 12 in the three-game series.

Catcher Joe Stefanki stepped up to the plate with the bases, loaded down by three in the fifth and ripped a triple down the left-field line.

As the Rebels fell flat with just two hits after that first-inning barrage, the Spartans played small ball and capitalized on UNLV’s defensive mistakes to put up three more runs over their last three half innings at bat.

While the Spartans as a team struggled to score before conference play kicked off on Friday, multiple Spartans began or continued to have success at the plate in the opening series.

Shortstop Aaron Pleschner boosted his average by nearly 100 points, going 6 for 11 over the weekend.

Freshman outfielder Kellen Strahm went 2 for 5 on Sunday and finished the series 5 for 13. Strahm made two Willie Mays-esque, over-the-shoulder catches in centerfield.

“Kellen Strahm is just a crazy athlete,” Hawkins said. “We’re going to have a tough time keeping him in school — from a draft standpoint.”

The multi-use Josh Nashed entered Sunday with just one hit on the season but swatted a pair, going 2 for 4 with an RBI.

Of the starting lineup, only Michael Breen and Chris Williams went hitless. Both have yet to get going and are batting a combined .139.

Thanks to the three-run triple on Sunday, Stefanki is now up to a team-leading .409, and is tied for the most RBIs despite missing three games.

“I switched to a 34-inch bat … I don’t know if that’s going to do anything, but I did.” Stefanki said humorously.

Whatever it is, it’s working for the senior catcher and the Spartans — who were picked to finish dead last in the Mountain West — are 2-1 in conference play. This was the first time SJSU has won its opening conference series.

SJSU will host University of Pacific on March 7 at Municipal Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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