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UNLV sweeps opening series 

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It was built up as the most anticipated opening weekend in recent UNLV memory. A Second-Team All-American, two Mountain West All-Conference players and all the hype was put on the shoulders of the Rebel baseball team to perform.

They’re off to a good start.

The UNLV baseball team (4-0) swept its weekend series with Central Michigan (0-4) this past weekend at Earl E. Wilson Stadium to open up the 2014 NCAA season.

“It’s hard to sweep some body four times, I don’t care who your playing,” said head coach Tim Chambers. “Overall, our performance for opening weekend was good.”

Good may be an understatement. No Rebel pitcher went less than six innings or had fewer than seven strikeouts; the kind of quality starts a staff may need in order to make a postseason run.

Junior Eric Fedde took the mound against CMU’s Jordan Foley on Friday. Baseball America had dubbed this as the premier pitching matchup in the country on Valentine’s Day, and Fedde held up his end of the proclamation.

The preseason All-American went 7.1 innings, allowing one hit and striking out 11 batters. The Rebels took care of the Chippewas by a count of 5-0. In the second game, it was junior John Richy’s turn to showcase his talents.

Richy also went 7.1 IP, allowing two hits and two earned runs, but struck out seven. UNLV again handled CMU 5-2. The Chips committed four errors in the game and surrendered 10 hits.

In game three, sophomore Kenny Oakley was on the bump as UNLV was trying to close out its doubleheader on Saturday. The second-year man didn’t disappoint, throwing six innings while allowing five hits with one earned. He also struck out seven batters.

Oakley, however, did not get the win. While leading 7-0, Chambers pulled Oakley and the Chips scored eight unanswered runs in the top of the seventh inning.

“They actually celebrated like it was the bottom of the ninth,” Chambers said. “We came back in the dugout and I said, ‘You better get your energy, let’s go.’”

UNLV scored four more runs to regain the lead for good and beat CMU 11-8.

Sunday it was another sophomore, Bryan Bonnell, that kept the Chips at bay. Bonnell made only his second career start after a 1.2 outing against Arizona State last season that ended before it even began. On this day, however, the blonde-bomber threw a gem, allowing two runs on five hits and recording 11 strikeouts. Out of the 107 pitches thrown, 81 of them were called strikes.

“This feels amazing,” Bonnell said after his performance. “I worked my butt off in the Fall and Summer to get back where I need to be and I couldn’t have done it without the great coaches and my team.”

If there was anything to knit-pick at, it’s the fact that UNLV left a lot of runners on base during its at-bats. During game four, the Rebels left 10 runners on base.

“We played well this weekend but we have to clean it up,” second baseman T.J. White said. “We had a couple errors, but we had a lot of runners in scoring position that we left on.”

With the four game sweep, Chambers earned his 100th win at UNLV. He reaches that mark faster than any coach in the schools history.

The Rebels will need to be finely-tuned next weekend as the competition increases. UNLV will hit the road to face Tennessee. Outside of football, the SEC has produced plenty of championship baseball programs, and the Volunteers are in national contention this year.

The three-game set is tentatively scheduled for Fedde to pitch on Friday, Richy on Saturday, and either Oakley or Bonnell to get the nod on Sunday.

When asked what needs to happen in order for them to win the series next weekend, Bonnell answered quickly, “If we clean up our defense, minimize as many walks as possible and keep with our same approach hitting the ball, we’ll be lights out in Tennessee.”

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