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Deep, talented UNLV baseball team primed for 2022 season

UNLV baseball coach Stan Stolte doesn’t anticipate playing the same lineup every game this season, a situation he sees as a good thing.

As the Rebels begin their 2022 campaign Friday night with a four-game series against Michigan State, Stolte says his team has plenty of depth. The battles for starting positions that went on through the offseason have shown him that.

“The internal competition has been so much better this year,” Stolte said. “We have more depth at every position. A player can’t take a day off or become complacent because he could lose his job.”

Stolte found out last year the importance of depth. The Rebels suffered a few injuries and quickly learned they did not have the players to fill those voids.

This year, he has noticed highly competitive practices with position battles all around.

Along with the depth, Stolte said he has a couple of proven starting pitchers returning. Sophomores Noah Beal and Las Vegas native Josh Sharman were second (29) and third (26), respectively, on the team in strikeouts last season and are expected to lead UNLV’s starting rotation.

One key returner among the position players is outfielder and Las Vegas native Austin Kryszczuk, who returns as UNLV’s top hitter after hitting .361 and driving in 23 runs in 2021.

Kryszczuk is one of seven starters returning from last year’s team. Stolte hopes that experience will result in more wins for the Rebels this season. They finished 20-13 last year, 15-12 and in third place in the Mountan West, in a season cut short by 11 COVID cancellations.

“Those guys all played quite a bit last year,” Stolte said. “They’ve been through the conference. They know what it takes.”

One position with an ongoing battle is shortstop. Last year’s starter Brendan Brooks will miss the season with a back injury. Stolte said there are multiple guys competing for that position and is confident in whoever steps into that spot.

UNLV was picked to finish second in the Mountain West preseason poll and picked up one of the seven first-place votes from the conference coaches. UNR, the preseason favorite, received the other six first-place votes.

The Rebels are scheduled to play a full 56-game schedule this year, with 34 home contests.

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.

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