#3 unlv rebels (27-27, 14-16 MW)
Put simply, Stan Stolte’s team hasn’t had a very good stretch run. UNLV has lost seven of nine games since April 30, including a serious thumping at the hands of Fresno State to close the regular season, but they remain a test case for how far one big star can carry a team.
That star, of course, is shortstop Bryson Stott, a surefire first-round pick in next month’s MLB Draft who has been every bit as good as advertised in 2019. He’s slashed an absurd .361/.489/.615 with 31 extra base hits and 15 stolen bases this spring.
One of the big questions, aside from Stott, is just how much power the Rebels lineup will bring to the tournament. They do pace the tournament field with 106 doubles but hit just 31 home runs as a team. Outfielder Max Smith provided some punch by hitting nine homers, but youngsters like Jack-Thomas Wold and James Gamble may need to pick it up for UNLV to hang around.
That the lineup may need to do the heavy lifting also speaks to the fact that the pitching staff enters tournament play with a team ERA, 5.76, that’s more than a run higher than anyone else here. Ryan Hare won seven games for UNLV with a 1.08 WHIP and .213 opponents’ batting average while Jackson Cofer has saved ten games, but the team as a whole coughed up 60 homers and struck out just 348 hitters in 481 innings.
#4 Nevada wolf pack (29-24, 14-16 MW)
J.T. Bruce’s Wolf Pack had to fight their way into the tournament, sweeping San Jose State and then getting help from the Spartans to overtake Air Force, but they might be the best proof that anything can happen in one game. After all, Nevada stole two games in a row from juggernaut Oregon State a month ago.
Outfielder Jaylon McLaughlin, who slashed .347/.396/.455 with 23 stolen bases in 27 attempts, is one player to watch. Weston Hatten is another because he can bring the thunder with his bat, slugging a team-best .564 with 26 extra base hits.
On the mound, the Wolf Pack may not be in the same league with SDSU and Fresno State but they can hold their own, especially on the back end. Grant Ford, Bradley Bonnenfant, and Cooper Powell all managed an ERA under 4.00 while striking out more than a batter per inning, so Nevada can keep games close and may just pull off a surprise if things break their way.