The Three-Year Cycle of Nevada Baseball
Kelsey Middleton reports on the cyclical nature of recent championship seasons.
The magic number three.
It is the number that is known to symbolize luck, self-achievement, confidence and wealth. And that is exactly the trend Nevada baseball has followed when it comes to being champions.
The start of it all was in 2015, the first time Nevada baseball even became Mountain West regular season champions. Three years later they were champions in 2018. Another three years rolled around and the team became champions for the third time in 2021.
A total of three championships won, all three years apart.
“I didn’t even know that in all honesty,” head coach T.J. Bruce said after a recent Thursday morning practice. “I have no idea, but I know that Nevada baseball has done a great job in our league.”
Building a Culture of Winning
On a windy afternoon practice in March, head coach T.J. Bruce wears a Nevada vest with a white long sleeve underneath. Volunteer assistant coach Kyle Hunt has his signature camo Nevada beanie and Nevada sweatshirt.
Bruce has been with Nevada since 2016, so he was here for two championships. Three redshirt seniors played during the 2018 and 2021 season: third baseman Tyler Bosetti, Joshua Zamora, who plays second base and right-handed pitcher Jordan Jackson.
“It was a typical slow start,” Bruce remembers of the 2018 campaign. “And then we just kind of rolled through conference, I think we were 20–9. At one point we got swept, which was tough, you can’t get swept in the league. I think if you do, you hurt your chances. And what we ended up doing was sweeping some other teams.”
“That team showed me what college baseball is all about,” Zamora said. “It’s all about fun, energy, and most importantly winning.”
Three years later, Nevada baseball saw their third Mountain West Conference Championship. The team had a solid end of the season with 15 consecutive conference wins from April 24 to May 30. They ended 22–9 in conference with a win percentage of .710.
“We knew how to win,” Jackson said. “And we kind of brought the younger guys along. And they really bought into what we do here. So it’s kind of that culture that we have.”
Everyone on the team receives a ring for conference championships.
“I really only wear it on special occasions, just because I don’t want to, like mess it up or anything,” Jackson said.
There are things that championship teams have that in other seasons they may lack. For the 2018 and 2021 teams, the coaches and three players said players had toughness.
“They didn’t worry about anybody but themselves,” Bruce said. “They weren’t concerned with any motivational tactics that the staff tried to do, or that they just went out and played. And I think that, when you do that, most of the good teams I’ve ever been a part of, you look back, you’re like, well, holy cow. You know, they were this, this and that. And that’s what those guys were, that was the number one thing. That would be my number one representation of Nevada baseball is toughness.”
It also helps when the coaching stays consistent. Bruce coached during both the 2018 and 2021 seasons and the athletes say he has always been a hard nosed coach.
“He’ll get on you and he needs to get on you, which is great,” Bosetti said. “I mean, knowing that he’ll tell you the truth is, I think it’s what makes you grow as a person and as a player.”
“You know, not not everyone can play here, I would say, I think it takes a different type of player, you have to be tough mentally, physically. And you have to be able to push through a lot of adversity,” Zamora said.
Year to Year Differences
Culture. It’s the word that defines a group of people who have similar behaviors, knowledge and capabilities.
The culture of the 2019 and 2020 teams were stuck in the dugout, never able to get out on the field and grow. The 2019 team didn’t hang out much and had little trust in each other on the field.
“As we kind of grow up, you start to see there’s a difference,” Zamora said. “There’s a separation between how people are raised and society as a whole. And I think that kind of played a deal with it, trying to learn how to, you know, deal with different generations, and different age groups and different guys.”
“You know, 2020, I just didn’t do a good job at keeping everybody accountable,” Bruce said. “I didn’t do a good job at leading these guys in this program. And so that’s a look in the mirror I had to take.”
Pressure. You would think after being named champions last season, players and coaches would feel a constant pressure to live up to those standards for a second time. Although, this is the last thing they have on their minds. They just want to win.
Will there be another championship this season to break the three-year spell?
“For sure, yeah,” Bosetti said without a doubt. “I mean, I truly believe in our team. Like all the older guys, like we’ve been here, we know what winning looks like and we can definitely do it again.”
There are 18 returning players from last season on the team. Some of the players, like Bosetti, Jackson and Zamora, have won championships twice now.
So far, the team stands at 13–13 overall and 7–4 in conference. Their winning percentages are .500 overall and .636 in conference, second behind UNLV.
This season has a total of 27 conference games. Looking at the end of the season, the team wants to win every one. When it comes to championships, Bruce believes Nevada can win every year.
Bosetti, Zamora and Jackson are planning on graduating this year, which means there will only be champions from the 2021 season left on the team next season, unless they win again this season. Bruce just signed another five-year deal with the university to put him in charge until 2026.
If this three-year spell for Nevada baseball continues, Bruce could see one more championship in 2024 before his contract ends.