Second year head coach Tim Chambers hopes to bring his squad to the top of the Mountain West conference but he will face some severe competition, especially from TCU. One of the first things that Coach Chambers did when he took over the Rebels was to bring over some of his players from College of Southern Nevada. In his first season in Vegas, he brought the team to a 33-25 record while going 10-13 in Mountain West play.
The focus of the fall for the Rebels according to Chambers was to “get our freshmen accustomed to the speed of the college games while introducing them to our system.”
The key hitter this season for UNLV will be senior outfielder Brandon Bayardi. He finished the 2011 season with a respectable .325 average while leading the team with 10 homers and 51 RBI in only 163 official at-bats. Chambers called him the “Big Gun” and will be the key to the middle of the batting lineup.
Every position can be filled by senior Scott Dysinger. He was one of those players that came over with Coach Chambers from Southern Nevada. In 2011, he played in 40 games (24 starts) while finishing second on the team with a .345 batting average and 19 RBI. As a sophomore at Southern Nevada, he helped lead the team to the NJCAA World Series by starting all 67 games and totaled 83 hits, including 12 doubles, two triples and two home runs and 34 RBI. His freshman season saw him appear in 54 games, making 51 starts as a freshman for the Coyotes. He finished second on the team with a .345 batting average.
“He really understands how to play the game while being a leader on and off the field for the team,” noted Chambers. “He will serve as a captain this season for us and could see time at every position including possibly pitching.”
Senior right fielder Trevor Kirk will star the season as the leadoff hitter. Last season, he hit .314 with a homer and 28 RBI while playing in 52 games. He also led the team with 12 stolen bases in 18 attempts. He also came over to the UNLV program from Southern Nevada where he hit .397 which was second on the team behind the top overall selection in the 2010 MLB Draft, Bryce Harper.
Mark Shannon is expected to start the season as a center fielder and a weekend starting pitcher. He was a freshman all-American at Northern Colorado in 2010 before transferring to Central Arizona for last season. His freshman year at Northern Colorado saw him named a freshman all-American after hitting .326 with three homers and 36 RBI. He also saw time on the mound where he made 15 appearances (14 starts) going 6-3 with a 4.52 ERA in 83.2 innings pitched. After the season, he decided to transfer to Central Arizona College where he hit .294 with a homer and 25 RBI. He made 16 appearances with four starts on the mound with a record of 8-2 and an ERA of 2.19.
The rest of the rotation is up in the air right now. They have Zack Hartman, Buddy Borden, Zack Qualls, and Erik Fedde that could fill the other spots.
Hartman spent last season as the closer picking up eight saves in 22 appearances while going 5-2 with a 2.35 ERA and was tabbed freshman all-American.
Buddy Borden struggled in some of his 10 outings (four starts) last season going 1-2 with a 10.48 ERA in 22.1 innings of work. Opponents did not have any issues hitting him as they checked in with a .392 batting average.
Freshman LHP Zack Qualls and RHP Erik Fedde will battle the upper classmen for starting spots. Qualls was a 21st round pick by the LA Dodgers out of Rancho High School and Las Vegas opted to head to school over the minors. The biggest issue with Qualls right now is his body type as he is 6’3 and 160 pounds but with three seasons at a college program he is expected to add on some weight. Fedde is out of Las Vegas High School and was selected in the 24th round by the San Diego Padres. He also will need to hit the weight room as he checks in at 6’4 and 165 pounds.
The Rebels got an early start this season with a scrimmage against the University of San Diego in Adelanto, Calif., Chambers said, “I thought this gave our staff an excellent chance to get a look at our squad against another team. I would definitely be having more scrimmages during future fall seasons.”
The start of the 2012 season will be on February 17th when the Rebels head to Loyola-Marymount for a three-game set. They will open the home portion of the schedule on February 28th when they have a two-game set against Cal State Bakersfield.