Air Force baseball hit five home runs and held off a late UNLV charge to earn its first Mountain West Conference victory, 11-9, Sunday afternoon at Earl E. Wilson Stadium. The Falcons improved to 7-11, 1-5 with the win, while the Rebels fell to 13-8, 2-4.
Air Force entered the game with just eight homers in 17 games. Freshman Jack Lupo led the home run barrage with two long-balls. Matt Alexander, Addison Gentry and Blair Kessler also homered for the Falcons.
Junior right-hander Matt Barattino (1-0) turned in a solid starting performance for the Falcons, holding the Rebels to six runs, three earned, in 6.2 innings. Freshman and Las Vegas native Aaron Kurcz turned in a gutty relief performance as well. After giving up a three-run homer to the first batter he faced, Kurcz held UNLV to one run over the next 2.1 innings to close out the game.
After UNLV jumped ahead early with a two-run first inning, the Falcon bats came alive. Back-to-back homers by Lupo and Kessler jump started the Falcons and put them ahead 3-2. In the fourth, Alexander and Lupo hit two-run homers to put AFA up 7-2.
After the Rebels rallied with a run in the fourth, Gentry had a two-run single to put the Falcons back up 9-3. UNLV took advantage of two Air Force errors in the bottom of the fifth, scoring two runs to make it a 9-5 game. The Falcons struggled mightily on defense committing six errors on the day.
Gentry added a solo homer in the seventh before UNLV’s Scott Berke hit a three-run homer off Kurz to make it a 10-8 game.
Air Force tacked on an insurance run in the ninth, as freshman Blair Roberts scored from third on a wild pitch.
UNLV made it interesting in the ninth, scoring a run and getting the tying run up to the plate with two outs. With a runner at third and two outs, Kurcz got his revenge, striking out Burke to end the game.
Air Force had 14 hits in the game. Alexander and Gentry had three hits each. Walker and Lupo had two hits each. Gentry had three RBIs and Lupo had four.
The five home runs are the most by Air Force in the Mike Hutcheon era, dating back to 2003.
Air Force returns to action Tuesday, March 24, at Presbyterian. Beginning Tuesday, the Falcons are slated to play six games, and complete a seventh, in six days, as part of its Spring Break trip.
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