Thursday, March 28, 2013 | 2 a.m.
This is a new weekly feature where we’ll have a Q&A session with someone either involved in or working with UNLV Athletics. Part informational, part nonsense, we want to get to know the Rebels.
UNLV baseball surged into the national scene almost immediately this season. Now the challenge is staying there.
After starting the year 14-3, including a three-game sweep of then-No. 9 Stanford that vaulted UNLV to No. 21 in Baseball America’s rankings, the Rebels have lost five of their past eight. It’s a bad stretch they hope to correct this weekend at home with a three-game series against Air Force.
The first pitch at Earl E. Wilson Stadium is Friday night at 6:05 with Erick Fedde (3-1) pitching for UNLV, and on Sunday at 1:05 p.m., it will be the Rebels’ John Richy (2-3) on the mound. However, Saturday afternoon belongs to junior right-hander Buddy Borden (3-1), an Arbor View grad with a league-leading 1.31 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings.
We caught up with Borden on Wednesday before practice to discuss everything from his favorite moment this season to how many batters he has intentionally plunked:
This interview was edited for content and clarity
Are you surprised at all by your team’s hot start?
I wouldn’t say surprised, but it’s definitely something you have to take a moment to sit back and be proud of for a second. We expected to be a regional team this year, and the ranking’s just a step that way. I think we got a little too caught up in it and we kind of fell off, but we’re going to get back on track.
What’s the key to bouncing back against Air Force?
Air Force is a good team. We’re going to have to come out and play hard. I think our recent struggle is just a funk every team goes through, and I’d rather have it now than at the end of the season. We get it out of the way here in the middle and come back hard this next weekend and hopefully turn it around against Air Force.
What’s the biggest difference between yourself as a player your senior year at Arbor View and now?
A lot of maturity. You learn how to respond to certain situations better. It’s different for different people, but I think I’ve grown up a lot in between the lines even from the fall. It’s a growth every time you’re out there. Physical strength and all that come with it, but I think the biggest aspect is the mental game.
What helps with the mental game?
The more times you go through something, the more times you learn how to respond to it. And the same thing if someone else goes through something I can learn how to deal with it the right way or the wrong way. Experience being around the game for a little longer and seeing the game pick up and you’ve got to pick up with it or you get left behind.
What’s the best moment of the season so far?
I liked beating Tennessee opening night. I think that was big for us to bring in an SEC opponent and win opening night, kind of make a statement to the rest of the conference. Sweeping Stanford was good, but it was on the road and our fans didn’t get to celebrate with us. I thought the Tennessee home game was a little better.
What’s the key to a good curveball?
Just staying on top of it. If you get around it, it will flatten out and get hit hard. If you stay on top of it you can get some pretty good depth on it.
How many times in your career have you hit a batter on purpose?
Very few. I won’t name a number, but very few.
They love the long ball. That’s what I go for every time I get in the box. When I do get it, I know they’re going to be digging it. Every time I get in that box, I know it’s going down.
What unwritten rule of baseball do you want to write down?
Pimpin’ home runs. When a guy shows up a pitcher I hate it.
Taking a non-Vegas person on a first date, do you go to the Strip?
No. Half the time people don’t even know there’s a town in Vegas, they just think it’s Las Vegas Boulevard. I’d take them over by where my house is.
What’s the last movie you saw in theaters?
"21 and Over." That was just last week. I liked it.
Who does the best impression of UNLV coach Tim Chambers (right)?
Andy Beresford. It’s mannerisms, some specific words, and Chambers’ voice is real raspy and low sometimes, so you’ve got to get the voice right.
Other than baseball, what’s your dream job?
It’s still baseball related, but I want to be a coach. Whether it’s at this level or the next one or even high school, I just want to be around the game the rest of my life, so I think coaching’s a good opportunity to do it.
Tupac or Biggie?
I’m more of a Biggie guy.