Taylor Aikenhead hit the low 90's with his fastball a couple of times. However, it wasn't the hard stuff that the Cal State Bakersfield lefthander relied on to completely shut down North Dakota's lineup on Friday night.
Aikenhead pitched eight shutout innings on the strength of a nasty changeup that helped him register 10 strikeouts, nine of them swinging, in the Roadrunners 4-1 Western Athletic Conference victory over North Dakota at Hardt Field.
"Aikenhead was dominant," CSUB coach Bill Kernen said. "That was the key for us because we got some hits but left some guys on base again...The offense was just ok and Aikenhead made it stand up."
Aikenhead allowed just five hits and four walks as CSUB took the opener of a weekend three-game series.
"He had good stuff," Kernen said. "He was upper 80's and threw in the low 90's a couple of times early but his changeup was really the most difficult pitch to handle tonight."
The 'Runners (9-11, 2-2 WAC) scored one run in the first inning and then added two more in the third en route to a 4-0 lead.
North Dakota (2-11, 2-2 WAC) scored its lone run in the ninth inning off of reliever Max Carter, who gave up two hits and a walk during one inning on the hill.
Jordie Hein and Mylz Jones had three hits each and Carter and Soloman Williams added two hits apiece for CSUB, which stranded 14 runners.
Hein scored the game's first two runs.
In the first inning he advanced home from third to home on an Oscar Sanay sacrifice bunt. Two innings later Hein scored on William's line drive single after drawing a walk and then racing to third on a stolen base and throwing error by North Dakota catcher Taylor Petersen.
Jones extended the 'Runners lead to 3-0, plating Sanay with a groundball single to left.
Carter drove in CSUB's final run of the game in the eighth inning via a sacrifice fly.
The 'Runners had two base runners thrown out at home plate, keeping them from scoring more than four runs in a game for the first time in 10 games.
"We some chances to break it open and we left guys on,"Kernen said. "I don't know if they're trying too hard in those situations because we haven't been doing well offensively. And so when they get the chances I think they're jumping on them too much. Swung at some bad pitches and got ourselves out a few times...We think it's going to open up and we're better hitters than this."
North Dakota used three pitchers. Starter Tyler Ruemmele took the loss. He tossed seven innings, allowing 11 hits and one walk, while recording four strike outs.
Ryan Reese, the WAC Player of the Week for March 10-16, went 3 for 4 for North Dakota, which failed to score while stranding exactly one runner in each of the first eight innings against Aikenhead.
"He was locked in the whole time," Kernen said of Aikenhead. "If they had to put together a rally against him, it was going to be tough because he never gave in and he never let up right from pitch one to (pitch) number 127."
Friday night's game marked the second straight stellar performance by the 6-foot, 175-pound senior from Lancaster.
Aikenhead didn't allow any earned runs in nine innings pitched his last time out, one week earlier against Grand Canyon.
CSUB and North Dakota meet for game No. 2 of the series at 6 p.m.today at Hardt Field.