10. BASEBALL: Wolf Pack 4, Louisiana Tech 3
Bradey Shipley and Carlos Escobar simply wouldn’t let the Wolf Pack lose its WAC baseball tournament opener this year on May 23 at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz.
Shipley turned in one of the most impressive pitching performances in Wolf Pack history in its 12 WAC years, tossing 138 pitches in a nine-inning complete-game victory. Escobar caught every one of those 138 pitches and then sent Shipley and the Pack home a winner with a dramatic ninth-inning walk-off home run.
Shipley’s 138 pitches are a Pack record in the WAC tournament. His nine strikeouts tied the school record (Rod Scurry did it against San Jose in the 2007 tournament). The sophomore righthander didn’t allow a hit after the fourth inning when Justin Gordey‘s two-run double gave Louisiana Tech a 3-1 lead and didn’t allow a base runner over the final four innings.
Shipley, the 2012 WAC Pitcher of the Year, also tossed just the Pack’s second nine-inning complete game in the WAC tournament’s history. Tim Schoeninger did it first in 2006 against San Jose State.
Shipley, who allowed five hits and walked three, bested Louisiana Tech’s Jeb Stefan. Stefan, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 22nd round last week, went eight innings and allowed five hits and three runs.
Stefan left the game after falling behind 3-1 to Escobar to lead off the ninth inning. Caleb Dudley relieved Stefan and Escobar hit his third pitch over the left field fence to end the game.
Escobar was drafted two weeks later by the Cubs in the 15th round. Hohokam Stadium in the spring training home of the Cubs.
Alex Williams, who was drafted in the 19th round by the Chicago White Sox last week, hit a solo home run for a 2-1 Louisiana Tech lead in the third inning. Joe Kohan drove in two runs with a single in the sixth inning to tie the game at 3-3 for the Pack.
9. FOOTBALL: Wolf Pack 45, Fresno State 38
This was the day that Cody Fajardo grew up as the Wolf Pack’s starting quarterback.
The Pack freshman had to be removed from his first start against UNLV two weeks earlier and then beat a bad New Mexico team the following week. Fresno State, though, with talented quarterback Derek Carr and his truckload of offensive weapons, was a different story on Oct. 22 at Mackay Stadium.
Fajardo, though, was up to the challenge.
The Pack quarterback matched Carr pass for pass in a game that wore out the scoreboard and was reminiscent of the old wild west shootouts that made the WAC one of the most entertaining conferences in the nation.
The game was, for the most part, an even, toe-to-toe slugfest. The Pack had slightly more first downs (29-27), Fresno had slightly more passing yards (315-313) and the Pack outgained the Bulldogs just 581-522 in an exhausting offensive explosion that saw both teams pile up a combined 1,103 yards.
The two quarterbacks, in the first of what should be three entertaining heavyweight fights in their career, led the way. Carr completed 20-of-37 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns and Fajardo was 19-of-27 for 313 yards and one touchdown and also rushed for a 23-yard touchdown that gave the Pack a 45-31 lead with 2:15 to play.
Carr and Fajardo, though, also had plenty of help. Fresno running back Robbie Rouse shredded the Pack defense for 167 yards and two touchdowns and Pack back Mike Ball did the same to the Bulldogs, running for 198 yards and a touchdown.
Special teams also played a huge part in the victory in front of 15,113 fans.
Rishard Matthews returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown as the Pack jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Allen Hardison booted three field goals, including a 48-yarder for a 23-17 lead just before halftime. Bubba Boudreau pounced on a Fresno State fumble in the end zone for a 30-24 lead early in the third quarter. And the Pack recovered an on-side kick with a minute to play after Carr found Rashad Evans for yet another touchdown to cut the Pack lead to 45-38.
The win was the Pack’s fourth in a row against the Bulldogs and head coach Pat Hill, who was let go after the season and was also the Packs 15th in a row at home in a streak that would end later in the year at 16.
8. MEN’S BASKETBALL: Wolf Pack 79, Fresno State 76
WAC championships are never supposed to be easy. And the Pack proved it once again on Feb. 25 at Fresno State’s Save Mart Center.
In a game that was tied 19 times and had 32 lead changes, the Wolf Pack and Bulldogs had to go to triple overtime before it was decided. The tiring three-point victory allowed the Pack to clinch at least a share of the WAC regular season title as well as the No. 1 seed in the conference’s postseason tournament.
The game was tied at halftime (23-23), at the end of regulation (53-53), after one overtime (62-62) and after two overtimes (68-68). Each Wolf Pack starter played 39 or more minutes with Dario Hunt leading the way with 53. Fresno State used just seven players in the game with two of their starters playing more than 50 minutes (Steven Shepp at 53 and Tyler Johnson at 52). Kevin Foster came off the bench for Fresno and scored 24 points in 40 minutes.
The Pack, which improved to 23-5 overall and 11-1 in the WAC with the win, just could never shake the Bulldogs (13-17, 3-9) until the final seconds of the third overtime. Deonte Burton (19 points) hit two free throws for a 77-74 Pack lead with 21 seconds to go in the third OT and Hunt, who had 20 points and 15 boards, hit a free throw for a 78-74 lead with eight seconds to go.
The Pack had a 53-47 lead with 3:44 to go in regulation but failed to score the rest of the way as two Kevin Olekaibe 3-pointers for Fresno State sent the game into overtime.
Story was 2-of-16 from the field in 48 minutes for the Pack and 0-for-8 from 3-point range. The Pack simply gutted out this victory as they missed 13 of their 16 3-pointers and 16 of their 42 free throws.
Czyz had 25 points and 11 rebounds in 49 minutes as 6,966 fans witnessed the 55-minute marathon in Fresno.
7. MEN’S BASKETBALL: Wolf Pack 65, New Mexico State 61
It took a while, but Northern Nevada finally returned to Lawlor Events Center in 2011-12.
A crowd of 8,074 showed up on March 1 and they were rewarded with a free white Wolf pack tee shirt and a championship celebration that reminded everyone of the NCAA tournament days that ended half a decade earlier.
The Pack beat New Mexico State to claim sole ownership of the WAC regular season title and cut down the nets and posed for pictures with their 2012 WAC Champions sign with anyone who had a camera.
“We Didn’t want to share it,” smiled center Dario Hunt.
It wasn’t pretty.
Malik Story hit four 3-pointers in a two-minute stretch for a 39-28 Pack lead in the first half. A 3-point play by Olek Czyz gave the pack a 48-41 lead with 16:30 to play in the second half and two Jordan Finn free throws made it 58-48 with 8:16 left.
The Pack, though, missed all seven of its 3-pointers (and nearly 70 percent of its shots overall) in the second half and found itself in a dogfight at the end.
A Daniel Mullings dunk cut the Pack lead to just 63-61 with just under a minute to play. The Aggies had a chance to tie the game late but a turnover by Hernst LaRoche with a second to play — and the subsequent free throws by Deonte Burton — gave the Pack its four-point win.
It was a team win as Czyz scored 15, Story had 14, Hunt had 10 and Burton nine. New Mexico State’s Wendell McKines scored 19.
6. BASEBALL: Gary Powers earns career victory No. 900
Once again, Gary Powers put the Wolf Pack baseball program on the national map.
Just 20 other active coaches in the nation had achieved what Powers achieved on April 17 at Peccole Park. The Pack beat the University of San Francisco 10-5 in front of 472 fans, giving Powers his 900th career victory. No other coach has won more than 140 games (Barry McKinnon) at Nevada since the school began playing Division I baseball in 1980.
The Pack fell behind 4-1 after three innings to USF and needed a seven-run sixth inning to turn the day into a celebration.
Bradey Shipley walked with the bases loaded to get the inning rolling. Tommy Niebergall then drilled a two-run single for a 6-4 Pack lead. And Brooks Klein put the icing on Powers’ cake with a grand slam to cap off the uprising.
The Pack, which improved to 20-16 with the win, used seven pitchers in the non-league game. The final six pitchers — Daniel Levine, Barry Timko, Bryan Suarez, Elliot Van Gaver, Sean Prihar and Jayson McClaren, limited USF to just one run over the final 6.2 innings.
“This is not about me,” Powers said after the game. “It’s about all the players who have played for me and all the coaches who have coached with me. All of them played a big part, a bigger part than me, in all those wins.”
Powers and his players huddled around home plate after the game for a team photo.
“He means everything to this program,” senior second baseman Joe Kohan said. “He’s the axis on which everything revolves. He built this program into what it is today.”
“He’s been a motivating factor for me,” Klein said. “He’s never satisfied and that’s what I like about him. There’s no question he’s one of the best coaches in the country.”
“He’ll make you a better man,” Kohan said.
5. FOOTBALL: Wolf Pack 37, UNLV 0
The Fremont Cannon stayed blue once again.
The Wolf Pack rolled over the Rebels on Oct. 8 at Mackay Stadium in one of the more dominating performances in the 43-year-old rivalry with the best trophy in college football.
The Pack defense held UNLV to a mere seven first downs, eight passing yards and just 110 total yards in posting the first shutout in the history of the Silver State rivalry.
Quarterback Tyler Lantrip came off the bench to complete 18 of 29 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns. His first pass went for a 90-yard touchdown to Rishard Matthews and a 10-0 lead in the second quarter.
Freshman Cody Fajardo, making his first college start, saw four of his first five drives end in three turnovers and a punt.
The senior Lantrip, who cemented himself in Pack history with his performance in this game, also tossed scoring passes to Corbin Louks (34 yards) and Shane Anderson (32 yards). Former Rebel Allen Hardison kicked three field goals for the Pack.
UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring had one of the worst days of any Division I quarterback in 2011, completing just 1-of-14 passes for eight yards and an interception and getting sacked five times.
4. MEN’S BASKETBALL: Wolf Pack 78, Utah State 71
The Wolf Pack went to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Jan. 7 with a ton of ugly history weighing it down.
The Wolf Pack had not won a men’s basketball game at Utah State since the 2005-06 season. They had won just two games in 18 tries at Utah State since first going to Logan, Utah in the 1937-38 season. The Pack had also lost five games in a row and nine of its last 11 against the Aggies no matter where the game was played.
The Pack simply changed history on Jan. 7 with a dramatic victory in front of 10,270 stunned Utah state fans.
Deonte Burton scored 25 points, Olek Czyz and Dario Hunt scored 14 and Malik Story added 12 as the Pack improved to 12-3 overall and showed that they were serious contenders for the WAC crown.
Burton, Czyz and Jerry Evans all hit 3-pointers as the Pack took a 15-6 lead less than four minutes into the game. A 9-0 run thanks to seven points by Burton gave them a 39-29 lead with 2:09 to go in the first half.
Brockeith Pane (21 points) drilled a 3-pointer for Utah State as the Pack suddenly found itself in a 56-56 tie with 9:36 to play.
Story, though, hit a 3-pointer for a 70-63 lead with 3:09 to go and Burton hit from long distance for a 73-68 lead with 41 seconds to go. The victory wasn’t secured until Story and Evans each nailed a pair of free throws in the final 21 seconds.
3. MEN’S BASKETBALL: Wolf Pack 75, Bucknell 67
A win at Oral Roberts four days earlier got Northern Nevada excited about the National Invitation Tournament.
The Pack, playing a second-round NIT game at Lawlor Events Center for the first time since 1997, scored the first six points against Bucknell in front of 6,927 loud and happy fans and never looked back.
A dunk by Deonte Burton gave the Pack a 14-5 lad with 13:46 to play in the first half and a lay-up by Olek Czyz (24 points) made it 30-20 with five minutes to go in the opening half.
Bucknell never went away, cutting the Pack lead to 32-28 on a 3-pointer by Cameron Ayers with three minutes to go in the half. But the Pack, which led 42-29 at the half, always seemed to have an answer.
Kevin Panzer chipped in with a key 3-pointer as the Pack took a 54-42 lead with just under 13 minutes to play.
Bucknell’s Mike Muscala, though, kept his team in the game. The center scored 25 points in 38 minutes and had 15 rebounds, the most boards by a Pack opponent last season. Muscala, though had half of Bucknell’s rebounds with none of his teammates pulling down more than three.
A 3-pointer by Bucknell’s Bryson Johnson cut the Pack’s lead to just 68-65 with 1:54 to play.
Czyz, though, had a pair of free throws for a 70-65 lead with 1:33 to go before Muscala drained a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 70-67 with 44 seconds to play.
Jordan Finn had a free throw with 36 seconds to play and Burton had four free throws in the final 13 seconds as the Pack moved to the NIT’s third round.
2. MEN’S BASKETBALL: Wolf Pack 53, Utah State 52
The Wolf Pack had never swept the Utah State Aggies in a season series since the rivalry began in 1935-36.
That all changed on the night of Feb. 2 at Lawlor Events Center.
Deonte Burton hit one of the more dramatic shots in recent Pack history when he drilled an acrobatic 3-pointer with 11 seconds left for the stunning victory in front of a season-high crowd of 9,988 fans.
Burton’s memorable shot turned an ugly game — it was 19-18 Wolf Pack at the half — into a work of art.
Burton, who was just 2-of-11 from the floor in the game before his winning shot, finished with 13 points. He had missed a free throw with 2:34 to play and a 3-pointer with 4:27 to go.
Malik Story, who also missed a 3-pointer with 3:16 to play, had 18 points, including a big 3-pointer that gave the Pack a 49-48 lead with four minutes to go.
A jumper by Brockieth Pane gave Utah State a 52-50 lead with 2:11 to play. Utah State, though, wouldn’t score the rest of the game. Pane finished with 12 points and seven turnovers.
The win over Utah State will also go down in Pack history. It was the Pack’s 16th win in a row, equaling the school record.
1. MEN’S BASKETBALL: Wolf Pack 76, Washington 73
It is fitting that the men’s basketball team owns the top four moments on this list and six of the Top 10. The program, after all, was rejuvenated this year with a 28-7 record, a WAC regular season title and a pair of wins in the NIT.
And the game that was the catalyst for all the fun took place on Dec. 2 at Lawlor Events Center.
Just 4,722 fans — Northern Nevada had yet to be convinced that this was going to be a special year — showed up at Lawlor to see a good Pac-12 team come to Reno. But the fans who were there were treated to an early Christmas present and one of the most entertaining games in the past five years.
The Wolf Pack went up 11-4 on a Dario Hunt lay-up with 15:32 to play in the first half. Jordan Finn’s lay-up gave the Pack a 19-11 lead with eight minutes to go.
But Washington, which trounced the Pack just a year earlier 90-60, cut the Pack lead to just 19-17 on a 3-pointer by Terrance Ross. A bucket by Abdul Gaddy tied the game at 22-22 with 3:16 to go before the intermission. Gaddy also hit a three for a 27-26 Huskies lead. The Huskies led 29-27 at the half, outscoring the Pack 10-5 over the final five minutes.
Washington seemed to take control of the game early in the second half, jumping out to a 41-34 lead on a 3-pointer by C.J. Wilcox and a Gaddy lay-up made it 49-39 Huskies with 12:38 to play.
Malik Story brought the Pack back, draining a 3-pointer to cut the Washington lead to 55-52 with 6:31 to go but the Huskies went back up 61-55 with five minutes to go on a Tony Wroten lay-up.
Deonte Burton then took over the game.
A Burton jumper brought the Pack to within 61-57 with 2:37 to go and his 3-pointer cut Washington’s lead to 61-60 a minute later.
Ross, though, gave Washington a 65-60 lead with just 34 seconds to play with a pair of free throws.
Story then hit a three to cut the deficit to 65-63 with 18 seconds to go. Darnell Gant hit 1-of-2 free throws to give Washington a 66-63 lead with 11 seconds to go and Burton then electrified the crowed with a 3-pointer with six seconds to go to send the game to overtime at 66-66.
The Pack point guard didn’t stop in the extra five minutes.
He hit a jumper and a free throw to cut Washington’s lead to 70-68 with 2:08 to go in overtime. And his 3-pointer lifted the roof off of Lawlor and gave the Pack a 72-70 lead with 1:41 to go.
The sophomore then hit a pair of free throws for a 74-71 lead with a minute to go and fed Kevin Panzer for a jumper for a 76-73 lead with 19 seconds left.
The win improved the Pack to 5-3 and was clearly the confidence builder this young Pack team was looking for. The win over Washington was the second in a streak of 16 that saw the Pack tie the school record for consecutive wins.
The Pack wouldn’t lose again after the win over Washington for two months.