Facing Max Smith with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 10th inning on Sunday night from Earl E. Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev., junior right-hander Codie Paiva was charged with a balk that forced in the winning run of an 11-10 victory for UNLV (3-0) over LMU (0-3) to conclude play at the Marucci Desert Classic hosted by the Rebels.
Paiva had danced out of a similar jam in the bottom of the ninth, stranding the bags loaded after intentionally walking a hitter to load the bases with just one out. Paiva, who was saddled with the loss, fell to 0-1 on the year.
Dillon Johnson led off the bottom of the 10th with a double before a sacrifice bunt moved the runner to third at the expense of the first out. Tenth-year head coach Jason Gill elected to intentionally walk the next two hitters, loading the bases and putting the game in the hands of Smith. Paiva, who has an unconventional wind-up, was working from that position, but was charged with a balk to end the game before he could deliver a first pitch.
While the finish came in rare fashion, the start to the game was equally as interesting. The Lions scored five runs in the top of the first inning, including three on the first homer of Ryan Ruley's LMU career - a three-run shot to left field on a night in which the winds were howling out to left-centerfield.
UNLV answered with two runs in the second, and four more in the third, as Nick Ames and Nick Rodriguez each launched two-run homers for the Rebels.
Now trailing 6-4, LMU punched back to score four in the top of the fourth, claiming a 9-6 lead headed into the bottom of the fourth inning. It was another homer that did some of the damage for LMU, as Niko Decolati belted his first of the season in that fourth inning. The two-run homer was part of a 3-for-6 night for Decolati, who hit out of the leadoff spot in the order after going hitless in his first two games of the year.
The wild contest continued in the bottom of the fourth, as UNLV tied the game at 9-9 with three runs on four hits, including the second two-run homer of the night from Ames.
The Rebels would continue to swing the bats well in the fifth, launching their fourth and final homer of the night to take a 10-9 advantage. Paiva, who took over to start that inning, allowed a leadoff homer to Vince Taormina to break the stalemate.
Paiva would settle down nicely despite being tagged with the loss, logging 5.1 innings and allowing just the two runs on four hits while striking out five.
In order to get to extras, LMU needed to score it's 10th run of the game, and the Lions managed to meet the requirement by way of an RBI-triple from Niko Pacheco in the seventh inning, as the wind-blown ball kept drifting away from Smith in right field before his dive was unsuccessful. Brandon Shearer came around to score the tying run after reaching on a one-out walk.
Overall in the game, the teams combined for 21 runs on 28 hits, including six homers. Despite the gaudy numbers, both bullpens had strong showings at times. Paiva's 5.1 down the stretch kept LMU in the game on the road, while Paul Richy, Conner Woods and Bryan Menendez combined to toss the final 6.1 innings, allowing just one run on five hits with five strikeouts to give the Rebels opportunities to walk off in both the ninth and 10th innings.
For his 2.0 scoreless final frames, Menendez was credited with the win, improving to 2-0 on the season.
While Ames finished with the two homers and four RBI, Rodriguez and Grant Robbins posted three-hit nights to help lead the way for UNLV. Rodriguez finished the game a triple short of the cycle, singling in the second, homering in the third, and doubling in the fourth to finish 3-for-5 with three runs scored and three RBI.
LMU will look to get in the win column on Tuesday when it welcomes UC Irvine to Page Stadium for the home opener at 6 p.m.
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