Nevada-Las Vegas has been one of this season’s early surprises. The Rebels, who haven’t had a winning season since 2014, when they last made the NCAA Tournament, are 12-2 this season and off to the second-best start in program history.
UNLV has been led by junior center fielder Kyle Isbel, who is hitting a team-best .458/.484/.847 with four home runs. The 2016 co-Mountain West Conference freshman of the year has tapped into his power more this season and anchors the Rebels’ lineup.
UNLV’s strong start to the season adds intrigue to its series this weekend against Iowa (7-2). These two teams met in Iowa City last spring with the Hawkeyes sweeping the series. This year, however, the Rebels will get home-field advantage at Wilson Stadium and will be the biggest challenge to date this season for the Hawkeyes.
Baseball America caught up with Isbel to talk about the Rebels’ impressive start to the season and their series against the Hawkeyes.
This is an intriguing weekend series between two teams off to good starts. What are you looking forward to about playing Iowa?
“I’m looking forward to a fun series. It’s going to be a great time. We had a lot of fun going out there last year. They beat us three games, so we’re kind of still bitter about that and we’re looking to get revenge.”
What has been the key to starting the season so well?
“I think the big thing that’s been the key for us has been the pitching. Our pitchers been attacking guys, throwing strikes and just keeping us in ballgames. We have a lot of good hitters on our team that when our pitchers keep us in ballgames, we should hit enough and score enough runs to win. So that’s been the big key for us.”
You’re off to an outstanding start offensively. How are you feeling at the plate?
“I feel good. I feel a lot of pressure taken off of me because I have a lot of good hitters around me that I know if I don’t get the job done, I can count on them to get the job done. So I just feel pressure-less. They’re always putting me in a good position to get good pitches to hit.”
What is your walk-up music and why did you choose it?
“I have ‘Light It Up’ by Major Lazer. I just love the rhythm and the beat. It just makes me feel good inside.”
What’s your go-to order at Chipotle?
“I have to go with brown rice, black beans, chicken, sour cream, a little bit of cheese and a lot of guac.”
What are you working on this spring?
“I’m just working on everything that I can do to help the team win. Anything, whether it’s base running to hitting to playing defense, I just want to win.”
What are the team’s goals this season?
“The ultimate goal is obviously to win the conference, win the conference tournament and play in a regional and we all hope to end up in Omaha. So that’s the plan for us.”