Hope of Cinderella season swept by New Mexico after weekend series at home
With a six-game deficit separating UNLV from a likely second-place regular season finish, the Rebels failed to make up any ground on first-place New Mexico.
Had the Rebels swept the Lobos in their three-game series to close out the month of April, UNLV would not only be challenging New Mexico for the top spot in the MWC, but they’d likely be in consideration for another top-25 ranking.
Instead, the Rebels lost all three games against New Mexico at home, and UNLV’s 2-1 series win over Fresno State this weekend ultimately proved little in the grand scheme of their bid for a 2013 conference title.
The Rebels followed their dominating 20-6 non-conference victory over UC Riverside on April 30 with a 4-1 win over Fresno State on Friday.
A 9-2 victory on Saturday helped the Rebels clinch the series, and moved them one step closer to a realistic shot at a late-season run for conference supremacy.
On Sunday, though, four different Bulldogs players scored two runs apiece and the Rebels left 13 runners on base en route to a deflating 9-4 loss.
Despite Mark Shannon, Brandon Bayardi and Joey Armstrong each collecting three hits, it was UNLV’s knack for leaving runners on base and their questionable bullpen that once again betrayed their chances to win.
For as much individual success and weekly conference accolades that various members of the pitching staff have enjoyed this season, the overall play of UNLV’s hurlers in these crucial games has the team in desperate need of a dominating finisher.
Two wins and one loss over the weekend to the next-to-last team in the conference standings doesn’t inspire much confidence for the Rebels’ postseason hopes, although it does keep UNLV in second place overall.
On Sunday, the Lobos earned a dominating win over MWC foe Air Force, and both the Rebels and Aztecs lost their games. UNLV and San Diego State remain tied for second place in conference play, with New Mexico taking a commanding seven-game lead.
With seven games now remaining in the regular season and the loss to the Bulldogs on Sunday, UNLV realistically blew its chances at making a run for a first-place finish.
The Rebels will have to win every one of their remaining regular season games and the Lobos will have to lose all of theirs for UNLV to tie for first.
However, the Lobos close out their season with a three-game series against the Aztecs; if San Diego State similarly closes out their season on a spectacular winning streak, there would be a three-way tie for the top spot in the MWC standings.
After a one-game non-conference showdown with University of San Diego on May 6, the Rebels will head to Reno for a three-game road series with the Wolf Pack from May 10-12. UNR currently sits in fourth place in the MWC standings, out of the running for a first-place finish.
While UNLV has some impressive wins on its resume this season, their 1-2 record against their neighbors up north this year makes an undefeated late-season finish seem like an even harder task to accomplish.
Despite UNLV’s astonishing 21-6 record at home this season, the Wolf Pack was able to get the best of the Rebels in their own home.
With a less-impressive 9-9 record in away games this season, UNLV’s chances of sweeping UNR on the road look even smaller by the minute.
Overall, where each team finishes in the regular season determines seeding for the MWC tournament. UNLV has proven that when its resilient offense clicks with timely hitting, especially in close games, they are difficult to beat.
When its pitching staff settles down and the starters are able to pitch late in the game, the Rebels have enjoyed much success as well.
With a “one game at a time” mentality that head coach Tim Chambers has preached incessantly, it’s not entirely inconceivable that the Rebels can finish in second or third place in the regular season and still have a legitimate shot at becoming the 2013 MWC champions.