UNLV is making the trip up to Corvallis for the NCAA Tournament, and while they won't face Oregon State on opening day, chances are the Beavers and Rebels will meet up sometime this weekend. They open with third-seeded UC Irvine on Friday afternoon.
We reached out to Mountain West Connection to give us a better look at UNLV.
1. What's the plan for the rotation this weekend?
Nothing has been announced yet, but look for UNLV to start John Richy who was 11-2 with an ERA of 2.78 and is now the teams ace. The first and foremost goal is to win games and using your best starter from the start and not holding him back for a potential game against Oregon State in Game 2. Basically, get the wins early and often if possible and starting Richy against UC Irvine is the best move.
2. The Rebels have gone 2-9 in their last 11 games against teams that made the tournament. Is that cause for concern?
That definitely is a big concern for UNLV, because they are now in the tournament and every team is a good team. The Rebels lost Erick Fedde a few weeks ago and is lost for the year, and that is a big reason for UNLV struggling against good teams. Part of that is losing momentum from seeing a key player dropping off but there is more than that since Fedde isn't an every day player, and also some of those loses came before Fedde was injured. Playing in the Mountain West is a good enough league to prepare UNLV for the NCAA tournament, but not winning games against good teams does not bode well for UNLV to advance.
3. What should we expect to see out of the UNLV bullpen? A mixture of relievers, or just a long reliever and a closer?
Brayden Torres is the Rebels primary closer with eight saves and a 2-1 record in 21 games while recording 35 strikeouts. Besides him there is a mixture of relievers but none really go more than two innings at a time for the most part. If UNLV needs a long reliever if a starter gets shelled they could go with a starter to fill in for at least three innings, and that likely candidate would be Kenny Oakley who has a 4-7 record in 13 starts and four relief appearances.
4. Early in May, ace Erick Fedde underwent Tommy John surgery and was lost for the year. Since that, the Rebels have gone 7-7, a sharp dropoff from the 28-16 they were before that. Is the team still the same team he was before that, or has there been a big step back? Or has the schedule just ramped up?
They are definitely in a funk after losing their best player but it probably shouldn't have been this big of a deal for a guy who is not an every day player. The pitching depth has taken a hit with Fedde being out and that is also a reason when the next guy in the rotation is not as good and there is a trickle down effect to this poor stretch.
5. Does Vegas play a lot of small ball like Oregon State, or will we rarely see any sacrifice bunts?
UNLV is not a real power team but they also aren't a team that bunts to move guys over. They are more of a hit and advance player with a lot of singles and doubles, but if they need to bunt to move a guy over that is not out of the question. So, the short answer is medium ball(?) if that is a thing.
6. Prediction for this weekend?
I think UNLV has the pitching talent to be one of the final two teams this week but they do not have the starting pitching to last the amount of games needed to win this region, or even get past the No. 1 national seed Oregon State.