Success for the Cal State Bakersfield baseball team this season has been tied closely to the fortunes of its pitching staff.
Not prone to winning many slugfests, CSUB has relied on its stable of top-notch hurlers to win games.
But as was demonstrated Sunday, even as good as they are, the Roadrunners' pitching staff can have an off day.
For the first time in seven games, the 'Runners allowed more than five runs as they lost 7-3 to Western Athletic Conference rival Dallas Baptist at Hardt Field.
The loss snapped CSUB's six-game winning streak.
The Patriots (21-19, 8-7) jumped on top early, scoring four second-inning runs off struggling CSUB starter Jonathan Montoya. And then after the 'Runners battled back to within a run of tying the game, Dallas Baptist scored three times in the eighth against reliever Taylor Aikenhead to secure its only win of the three-game weekend series.
"We had a bad inning in the second inning," CSUB coach Bill Kernen said. "Montoya didn't really have his best stuff and he needed to really locate better than that to be able to be successful today. And they got him in that one inning. And we kept it down and then they had another (good) inning later. We didn't do enough offensively to overcome that."
Frank Martinez, who went 2-for-4, was the only CSUB player with multiple hits. Austin Listi went 3-for-4 with three RBIs for Dallas Baptist.
Despite the loss, CSUB (27-14, 11-4) retains its one-game lead atop the WAC standings. Second-place Texas Arlington (21-18, 10-5 WAC) lost 5-0 to Seattle on Sunday.
The normally sharp Montoya (3-2, 2.65 ERA) issued three walks and fell behind in the count numerous other times against Dallas Baptist.
The senior left-hander's inability to hit his spots with regularity gave the Patriots' lineup full of quality hitters a distinct advantage. One in which they capitalized on by racking up four hits during the pivotal second inning.
Chane Lynch and Ronnie Mitchell struck the most impactful blows. Lynch's triple scored the game's first run. Then later in the frame Mitchell plated two more runs with a triple of his own, making the score 4-0.
That turned out to be all the runs the Patriots would need.
Dallas Baptist starting pitcher Cody Beam (3-0) allowed two earned runs in 5-2/3 innings to earn the win. The junior right-hander gave up four hits and two walks while recording six strikeouts.
Beam didn't allow a CSUB batter to reach base until the fourth inning, when leadoff hitter Oscar Sanay began the frame with a line drive single to centerfield.
Three batters later, following an out and a Tyler Shryock walk, Cael Brockmeyer drilled a hard ground ball just inside the third base bag and into the left-field corner for a two-run double.
The 'Runners cut the Patriots' lead down to 4-3 an inning later on Kevin Younger's two-out RBI single. Jordie Hein, who began the frame by getting aboard on a fielding error by Batist second baseman RJ Talamantes, scored from second base when Younger's high fly ball to shallow right field landed in-between three Patriots' players.
But after James Barragan was lights-out on the mound for two innings (no runs, one hit, three strike outs), giving CSUB time to get back in the game, Aikenhead pitched a scoreless seventh before letting the Patriots extend their lead back to four runs in the eighth.
During his two innings of work the junior left-hander, who entered the game with a stellar 2.53 ERA, allowed six of the 11 batters he faced to reach base (three hits and three walks).
Montoya's final stat line showed him surrendering four earned runs on six hits and registering two strike outs.
"It just shows you how good they've been when they have a day like today," Kernen said of Montoya and Aikenhead. "It wasn't even horrible, but you're just going 'wow this isn't really the kind of quality we're used to seeing.' So that's typical of teams. You're not going to be perfect. They're human beings and they're not going to be great every time. We'll throw them back out there next time and I'm sure they'll be fine."