Thursday, February 24, 2011

Baseball ready for high-powered UNLV offense

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || February 24, 2011

Tim Chambers hasn’t found much.

“I’ve been asked that question a bunch,” the University of Las Vegas Nevada head coach said about the difference a year makes. “It really hasn’t been any different.”

And early in his first season at the helm of the Rebels baseball program, after 11 wildly successful years coaching on the junior college level at the College of Southern Nevada, the results really haven’t been any different.

Chambers, who built the CSN program from the ground up and won seven Scenic West Athletic Conference championships, including the 2003 Junior College World Series, has the Rebels off to a hot start heading into a four-game series against the Chippewas this weekend.

“I don’t know much about his style,” said CMU head coach Steve Jaksa. “But we know they like to run and do some things pretty well from what we saw.”

Central Michigan enters the series on the heels of a season-opening four-game split at Florida Gulf Coast University, and will carry the same four-man starting rotation of senior Bryce Morrow and juniors Trent Howard, Zach Cooper and Ryan Longstreth.

“We’re comfortable with the way those guys have thrown,” Jaksa said.

Howard will get the series-opening honors against Rebels sophomore Tanner Peters.

In a four-game sweep over Maine, UNLV smacked eight home runs and hit to the tune of a .376 batting average and .638 slugging percentage in their first series.

And while seeing balls fly out of the park is nothing new to Chambers, who was instrumental in landing and developing Bryce Harper, the 18-year-old hitting phenom selected No. 1 overall in last year’s MLB Amateur Draft by the Washington Nationals, hearing the sound of aluminum bats hitting those balls out of the park is.

At CSN, the Coyotes competed in a junior college circuit using wood bats.

“The scores are going to be up because of the bats,” he said. “But the game is pretty much the same although last weekend’s scores didn’t look like it.”

The Rebels scored nearly 13 runs a game in their victories over Maine.

Chambers served as athletics director of CSN since 2003, and chalks the dead time of only filling a head coach’s role as the biggest difference in the change of scenery.

“It’s a little different from the standpoint that I’m not as busy,” he said. “In junior college, you do everything, raising money and stuff like that. Here, there’s more time.”

And time wasn’t on the Chippewas side returning from Florida earlier this week.

After a two-hour flight delay and four-hour bus ride from Grand Rapids, the team returned to Mount Pleasant at 4 a.m. Monday morning and will face a three-hour time change this weekend.

“I feel pretty good about the guys,” Jaksa said. “They looked good in practice and recover well.”

On Tuesday, sophomore shortstop Jordan Dean was named the year’s first Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week. He went 8-for-14 with a home run in his first three starts.

“It feels great,” Dean said. “I just have to stay humble and keep doing what I’m doing.

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