The University of Las Vegas, Nevada has been filled with star-studded talent for many years. The Orange County Riptide have had the opportunity to have players from the university play for their organization over the past few summers. Austin Kryszczuk, Jack-Thomas Wold, Eric Bigani and Edarian Williams are the highlighted names from UNLV who have made their school known within the Riptide lineup in the summer of 2021.
As Wold, Kryszczuk, and Williams are from the state of Nevada, Bigani was raised locally in Yorba Linda, California. This allowed for the opportunity for the Bigani family to host the three other UNLV athletes to stay at their residence while they play in Orange County for the summer. James Bigani, father of Eric, spoke on the hosting experience with his son and the three other Las Vegas players for the summer.
“It’s been a great experience,” Mr. Bigani said. “I did know them all before they came, so that was a plus. They’re very helpful around the house, more than my kids. I think they’ve transitioned very well playing from over there (Las Vegas) to over here (Orange County). They’re easy to get along with. You’ll never see them shy.”
Mr. Bigani also discussed the boys daily routine, which he stated, “I have a gym and batting cage at home that they use. They get up in the morning, they lift, hit, come inside to eat, and then head to the field. They do it every morning.”
We’re not exactly sure what the Bigani family is serving for dinner for the UNLV players, but whatever Mr. and Mrs. Bigani are putting on the grill seems to be working well. Within the first 10 games this summer, Bigani (9), Wold (8), and Kryszczuk (7) are atop the RBI leader board for the Riptide. Each of the four players have a batting average above .333 and Wold is also the team-leader in home runs with two.
The four Nevada superstars spoke on how they felt about having additional support from the familiar faces on the field.
“It’s really comfortable having three others guys from your team in this lineup,” Wold said. “The other night I started in left field, Bigani was catching, and Williams was playing second base. It was super comfortable to look across the field and see guys that you’re playing with. Even when I was hitting, I had one of my guys behind me. It’s nice to have people who you’re familiar with and know how they play.”
“It’s been really fun, keeping all of us in the lineup,” Eric Bigani mentioned. “It’s nice having good team chemistry.”
“I think we all help each other, it’s nice having them here.” Kryszczuk noted. “We can help each other, we know each others tendencies. It’s been nice getting some feedback from them. They’ve been really helpful.”
“I’d definitely say we feed off of each other.” Williams said. “It’s nice having them and knowing some people because this is a brand new group of guys here.”
University of Las Vegas, Nevada Assistant Coach Cory Vanderhook joined the Rebels coaching staff in 2019 in order to develop the many players that go through the UNLV program. He provided the Riptide these four valuable assets to not only help the Riptide find success this summer, but also to further help the four sluggers work on their craft outside of playing for the university.
“The leadership they show at our place is being carried over to where they’re at right now in Orange County”, Coach Vanderhook explained. “Whether it’s summer ball or professional ball, we want our kids from UNLV to do things the right way. It’s pretty simple.”
OC Riptide Head Coach Mitch LeVier finds himself in his second summer with the Riptide, first coaching with the team as an assistant in 2018. This summer, LeVier tends to have at least two of the four UNLV hitters in the lineup every game, a great strategy to be able to find themselves in the win column.
“They have played with each other all year and they’re comfortable,” Coach LeVier said. “With the leadership and the experience they’ve had, it helps with the team’s chemistry as a whole.”
The four UNLV student-athletes look to use what they have learned from Nevada and apply it on the field throughout the rest of the summer at the Orange County Great Park.