A Cal State Bakersfield pitching staff that rarely makes mistakes broke one of baseball’s cardinal rules twice in the late innings Saturday.
The Roadrunners ended up paying heavily for those transgressions.
CSUB pitchers issued leadoff walks in both the eighth and ninth innings, helping New Mexico State rally from a three-run deficit and claim a 5-4 Western Athletic Conference victory at Hardt Field.
Trailing 4-1 in the eighth, the Aggies tied the game on Parker Hipp’s three-run homer off reliever Hayden Carter.
In the ninth, facing closer Dylan Christensen, Tanner Rust hit an RBI single to provide New Mexico State with the winning run.
In both innings, the Aggies’ leadoff batter walked and eventually scored.
“Leadoff walks score 70 percent of the time,” CSUB coach Bill Kernen said. “…If we do that, we’re going to pay the price and we did.”
Freshman Mylz Jones tied the CSUB record for longest hitting streak in a season, reaching 19 games with an infield single in the fourth. Jeremy Rodriguez recorded a 19-game hitting steak during the 2010 season.
The loss drops CSUB into a tie for second place in the WAC standings, a game behind Texas State, which beat Seattle University 7-5 on Saturday.
The ’Runners (19-9, 4-2 WAC) rallied from a 1-0 deficit to get within six outs of completing a three-game sweep of New Mexico State (15-14, 2-4 WAC).
After Robert Lecount drove a pitch up in the strike zone from CSUB starter Taylor Aikenhead over the left-field wall for a solo home run in the sixth inning, CSUB quickly responded. Nick Vehlewald pulled the ’Runners even in the bottom half of the frame with a bases-loaded walk following three straight two-out singles by Jones, Oscar Sanay and Jordie Hein.
CSUB appeared to break the game open during its next at bat, scoring three runs.
Dylan Christensen tripled and later raced home on Tyler Shryock’s double play grounder. Then, after Cael Brockmeyer singled and Jones walked, Sanay drilled a hard line drive that Rust, the Aggies’ left fielder, made a diving attempt to catch, but missed and the balled roll past him.
That allowed both Brockmeyer and Jones to score and Sanay to reach second base.
Christensen’s earlier triple came on a high fly ball the landed in shallow left field between Rust and Hipp, the shortstop.
“They gave us some things to give us that lead so we actually got what we deserve,” Kernen said. “We didn’t play a quality game the whole day.”
Jones, a freshman third baseman, tied Jeremy Rodriguez’s CSUB record for longest hitting streak (19 games) with an infield single in the fourth inning.
Jones reached base four times (two hits and two walks) in five plate appearances Saturday. He also helped CSUB’s pitchers with several sparkling defensive plays.
Aikenhead, who deftly pitched his way out of several jams to keep the ’Runners in the game, went seven innings, allowing one run on five hits and three walks. The junior left-hander had three strike outs.
New Mexico State used a quartet of pitchers. Christopher Bradley (3-3) went the final three innings, picking up the win.
Christensen, selected the WAC Pitcher of the Week on March 25, took the loss.
Despite the setback, CSUB has won its first two WAC series of the season, taking two of three games each time.
“I guess you have to come away with that as a positive, winning the series’” Kernen said. “But when you’re six outs away from a sweep, you hope you’re able to do that. But you know this game is full of disappointments and failures. It’s the people that come back from it that are successful. So that’s what we’re going to try to do.”