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Gailen powers Rebels

In about a week, UNLV left fielder Blake Gailen’s senior season is likely to end. He plans to spend that time wisely, and he proved it Thursday night.

Gailen hit a tiebreaking solo homer in the fifth inning to lift the Rebels to a 4-3 victory over Air Force at Wilson Stadium.

“I’m hoping this isn’t the last week of my career,” said Gailen, who went 3-for-3 with two RBIs.

“Everyone is busting their butts to do whatever they can to win these games. It’s a grind for us right now.”

UNLV, 20-34 and 8-14 in the Mountain West Conference, is one loss from tying the school record set in 1982.

The Rebels will be the No. 6 seed next week when they host the conference tournament. The Falcons (8-42, 0-21) will not qualify for the six-team field.

There have been few opportunities for UNLV coach Buddy Gouldsmith to sing the praises of his players this season. But he is always complimentary of Gailen, a 5-foot-7-inch, 155-pounder who plays bigger than his size.

“Blake’s a guy who comes to the park every day prepared to give you everything he’s got,” Gouldsmith said. “He’s such a tough competitor.

“He shows up every day, and I think that’s the most important thing for us right now is finding those guys.”

Gailen’s home run was his fifth of the season, and he’s third on the team with 33 RBIs.

With some luck, not to mention a dramatic improvement in their play, Gailen said the Rebels have a shot to turn things around and win the conference tournament.

“We’re focused on trying to get on a roll and stay hot,” said Gailen, from West Hills, Calif. “When we play the top teams, we play well.

“We’re so much better than we’ve shown, and I don’t know what it is. I don’t feel like we’re giving up, but I just feel like it’s not there.”

UNLV junior right-hander Craig Heyer (6-8) got the win by allowing one run and striking out five in six innings.

The Falcons rallied for two runs in the ninth against the Rebels’ Adam Moser.

Gouldsmith called to the bullpen for Marc Baca, who got the final out and saved UNLV from a potentially embarrassing loss.

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