UNLV’s baseball team begins play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005 this afternoon at 2 p.m. when it faces UC Irvine in the opening round of the Corvallis Regional.
The Rebels (35-23) earned a share of the Mountain West regular season championship and a No. 2 seed, overcoming a rash of injuries and one of the nation’s toughest road schedules in the process. The vibe around the program is the best I’ve seen since Jim Schlossnagle left to build TCU into one of the nation’s premier programs.
That’s a credit to fourth-year head coach Tim Chambers and his talented staff. They’ve done an outstanding job of recruiting, especially locally, and then developing that talent. They also have built a strong and loyal fan base that figures only to grow with continued success.
I was fortunate enough to cover three Long Beach State teams that played in the College World Series back in the 90’s under Dave Snow, the man who established the team’s exciting “Dirtbags” style of play. And the Rebels under Chambers exhibit the same style – strong pitching, good defense, grinding at-bats, strong fundamentals – as those teams.
It would be a shame to lose Chambers, who has just one year remaining on his contract and recently turned down an extension that was, quite frankly, a slap in the face considering there was no pay increase.
It’s up to new UNLV athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy to wrap up Chambers, who will be inducted into the Southern Nevada Hall of Fame on Friday night at the Orleans Arena, to a new deal and do it soon, no matter what happens this weekend in Oregon. Football coach Bobby Hauck was recently awarded a three-year extension with a hefty $200,000 per year raise despite the fact the school was aware of impending NCAA postseason sanctions for failing to meeting minimum APR guidelines. And basketball coach Dave Rice cashed in with a two-year extension a few months later despite failing to guide the Runnin’ Rebels to a postseason berth for the first time since 2006.
The Rebel baseball program is definitely headed in the right direction. If schools like Stony Brook, Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton and Pepperdine and can make it to Omaha, why not UNLV?
* After repeatedly seeing the replay of his antics with LeBron James in Game 5 on Wednesday, I guess it’s fair to say that Lance Stephenson blows. …
* Despite the fact he’s scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery next week, many MLB Draft projections still have UNLV pitcher Erik Fedde slotted as a mid-first round pick on June 5. Possible landing spots include Cleveland, which has two first rounders, and Washington, which has made it clear that it isn’t afraid to gamble and also did pretty good drafting another Las Vegas High product by the name of Bryce Harper. …
* Former UNLV OL Joe Hawley is splitting time taking first team reps at center for the Atlanta Falcons during OTAs with Peter Konz, a second round pick from Wisconsin in 2012. Konz began the 2013 season as the starter but was replaced by Hawley with seven games to go. Hawley, now in his fifth season, is expected to remain the starter after landing a two-year extension.
* So Donald Sterling was recently found by experts to be mentally incapacitated. I’m sure the average Clippers’ fan could have provided that diagnosis 25 years ago. Lakers fans no doubt would love to have those same experts take a long look at Jim Buss. …
* Andrew Morales, who will start today’s game for UC Irvine (35-22) against UNLV, won his first 19 Division I starts for the Anteaters before back-to-back season-ending losses to Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State.
* I admit I’m not a Major League pitching coach but I think I would stay away from throwing fastballs on the inside half of the plate to Edwin Encarnacion right now. …
* To break the tie in the National Spelling Bee, I move that the two finalists try and spell the name of their competitor.