Cal State Bakersfield baseball’s players and coaches are trying not to treat the upcoming regular-season-ending series against Chicago State any differently than the previous 51 games of the year.
But it is different. It’s not only the final series of the regular season, it will also decide whether CSUB makes it to the Western Athletic Conference Tournament for the sixth year in a row or misses it for the first time since joining the conference.
“I don’t think we need to add that extra pressure to ourselves,” Roadrunners pitcher Naithen Dewsnap said. “We just treat it like any other series and play baseball like we know how to and everything else will kind of handle itself.”
With two wins over Chicago State (12-39, 6-15 Western Athletic), CSUB could basically clinch a postseason spot (as long as seventh-place Texas-Rio Grande Valley doesn’t sweep second-place New Mexico State). But the Roadrunners (18-33, 8-13) have won just one of their seven WAC series this season and a sweep by Chicago State would mark the end of the year for CSUB.
The series opens Thursday with a 6 p.m. game at Hardt Field. Friday’s game also has a first pitch of 6 p.m. and Saturday’s contest will open at noon.
“We want it to be business as usual here,” CSUB head coach Jeremy Beard said. “We don’t want to treat this as different than any other weekend. If we did, it means we haven’t been preparing appropriately in the first place so really it’s about playing every pitch and understanding that competition is an opportunity and a privilege and we need to take advantage of that.”
Chicago State is the worst team in the conference in terms of record, but the Cougars have won each of their last three WAC series. They took down Utah Valley, Northern Colorado and Texas-Rio Grande Valley in two games of each series, accounting for six of their total eight WAC wins.
The Cougars’ Tyler Lowe is hitting .413 — second best in the WAC — with 31 hits and 19 runs batted in during conference play. But as a team, Chicago State has the second-worst team batting average and worst team earned run average in WAC play.
“They’re playing very good baseball,” Beard said. “You can't look at the record at all. They're in a cold climate and sometimes it’s hard to get out of the gate. But they have some talented players on that team. Our kids understand how dangerous they are.”
CSUB’s Alec Daily (4-3, 5.15 ERA) will throw against Chicago State’s Grant Trower (1-4, 10.21 ERA) on Thursday. Davonte Butler (2-7, 5.07 ERA) will start Friday for the Roadrunners against the Cougars’ Joe Fitka (1-4, 5.87 ERA). Beard has not named a starter for Saturday.
Dewsnap will likely be waiting in the bullpen for whenever CSUB needs him most.
“A lot of confidence for us,” CSUB shortstop Daniel Carrizosa said of the feeling heading into the series. “I know it’s a big series, but if we play the way we’re playing, I think we’ll be fine. Take one game at a time.”