Chambers’ contract issue not a distraction for Rebels
There’s been recent news that may be of some issue regarding the UNLV baseball team. Last week, head coach Tim Chambers rejected a five-year extension offer from athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy.
Chambers, who has one year remaining on his contract, rejected the offer that would give him five more years at the same pay rate.
With UNLV in the midst of one of its better seasons in recent memory, Chambers didn’t want the contract talk to be a major distraction.
“I don’t want these last 10 games to be about what I’m doing,” Chambers said. “All I’m concerned with is these kids. Everything will work itself out. I’m sure of it.”
Right when the news became public on Monday, UNLV had to move on and the challenge was tough.
After sweeping conference rival New Mexico in their three-game set this past weekend, the No. 27 Rebels (28-16 overall, 16-8 Mountain West) dropped a midweek contest to UC-Riverside on Tuesday by a score of 8-2.
“Yesterday we just didn’t show up,” Chambers said. “I don’t do this, but I looked at everyone in the dugout and said, ‘we need to win two of the next three these next two weeks.’”
The Rebels got off to a flat start against Riverside. Kenny Oakley, who’s been excellent in the starting rotation, allowed six runs in the second inning to blow the game wide open. He was later pulled in the fourth.
Joey Armstrong (2-for-4) and Stotts (3-for-4) were the only Rebels to record multiple hits thanks to a Riverside pitching staff that kept UNLV off-balance all night.
“They jumped on us when we made mistakes early in the game,” said reigning Mountain West Player of the Week Patrick Armstrong. “We didn’t score guys when we needed to and they caught us slipping.”
The final stat line for Oakley: 4 innings pitched, six runs (four earned) on six hits.
Although Oakley was pulled after just four innings, it wasn’t due to the fact that he had given up too many runs. Brayden Torres, the club’s leading reliever, went down with injury.
Oakley, who pitches out of the bullpen on weekend series, was pulled by Chambers due to his pitch count, not performance. Chambers says the team needs him to be ready to throw out of the bullpen this weekend.
UNLV now garners its attention toward the rest of the season, and that begins with its first midweek game of the year against James Madison. The game will be played in Clemson, S.C. on Saturday.
The Dukes (15-26) come into the contest having won three in a row over the likes of Towson (twice) and Maryland.
The Sunday and Monday games will be against No. 20 Clemson, with the former game being played in Greenville, S.C. and the latter in Clemson.
The Rebels seem to be clicking at the right time. While the pitching has been strong all season, it’s the hitting that has finally come alive. Over its last seven games, UNLV has scored 60 runs.
Morgan Stotts, who was told over the weekend by Chambers that he’d be in the starting lineup for the rest of the season, has been on fire. Over his last four games, Stotts is batting .555 (10-for-18) with two home runs.
“Having Stotts step-up has been great,” Chambers said. “But make no mistake, Patrick’s our leader. Everything goes through him. He’s our voice, he’ll get on someone if they aren’t doing the right thing.”
There are still, however, some lingering issues. Despite a stellar pitching rotation and an explosive offense that’s seemingly coming together, injuries are still an issue.
Joey Swanner pulled up at second base on Sunday with an apparent hamstring issue. Swanner, who suffered a hamstring injury on his other leg earlier in the season, has been the starting left-fielder for most of the season when healthy.
“He feels like he’ll be ready to play this weekend,” Chambers said. “Even when he [struggles] he’s a spark-plug for us. We haven’t had our team fully-healthy all year. Not one time.”
Patrick Armstrong reverberated Chambers statement, saying that getting everyone healthy at the end of the year for the conference tournament is what matters most.