The University of Nevada, Las Vegas will be in Fort Collins this weekend to take on Colorado State at Ram Field.
The Rams (22-15, 7-8 MW) are looking to get a much needed boost in the Mountain West standings as they currently sit in fifth, three and a half games back of first place. The Rebels (21-19, 4-8 MW) are currently last in the conference and have lost all four conference series they have played so far.
“There is nobody that’s going to hand anything to you,” head coach Jen Fisher said. “They kind of owe us from last year, we swept them at home and threw a no-hitter against them.”
The Rams’ offense is coming into the series after struggling to find hits against Utah State last week. Sophomore Amber Nelson has been the Mountain West leader in many offensive categories all season, but her numbers have lowered in the past few weeks as she only leads in on-base percentage (.560).
What has helped the Rams’ offense has been their ability to take walks and also take a couple of pitches off their bodies. They are second in the MW in walks with 147 and they have drawn the most in-conference play with 54. They have also been hit the third most in conference with 31 hit by pitches and 17 of those have come in MW play.
UNLV has hit the most batters with 40 errant pitches this season. However, the Rebels do well with forcing batters to hit the ball as they have given up the second lowest amount of walks (72) in conference.
“We have been pretty quiet with our bats,” Fisher said. “We have to really try to keep our hitting simple and get back to swinging at good pitches and just trying to square up.”
The offense has been even worse for the Rebels as they rank last in conference in numerous categories, including on-base percentage (.334), slugging percentage (.353) and runs scored (154). Coach Fisher hopes that her team’s hot pitching streak can continue this weekend against a struggling offense.
Sophomore Bridgette Hutton allowed only two hits in the Rams’ game against Northern Colorado on Tuesday and had a career high in strikeouts with eight. Those strikeouts put her in the team lead for that category as she now has 52 on the season.
Petakoff has also been pitching well with her last two starts both resulting in shutout victories. She was able to hold Utah State off the scoreboard last Saturday while only giving up five hits. Junior Kaylynn Pierce has also had a streak of success that has helped her to lead the team in wins with eight on the year.
“I think (pitching) could definitely help our team, it could help our offense,” Fisher said. “If we can keep the runs down it’ll take some pressure off of our offense…we have the ebbs and flows of the season but right now they seem to be like ‘help us pitchers’ and the pitchers are doing it.”
One area the pitchers and defense will have to watch for the Rebels offense is on the base paths. UNLV has stolen 39 bases this season, including 14 in the conference play which is good enough for the second most in the MW.
“We had two muffed plays that we probably should have had the out where Utah State ran on us,” Fisher said. “That is something we need to work on for sure.”
Game one gets underway Friday at 4 p.m., weather permitting as rain is in the forecast. However, the sky look clear for their games Saturday and Sunday, with game two starting at 12 p.m. on Saturday, and game three also at 12 p.m on Sunday as well.
Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ajwrules44