The list that Cal State Bakersfield head coach Jeremy Beard was rattling off seemed to carry on longer than normal.
“We lost our infield,” Beard said to the crowd at the CSUB Baseball Hot Stove Dinner held at the Kern County Fairgrounds in January. “We lost our starting catcher. We lost our pitcher of the year. We lost our left fielder.”
Even the most diehard CSUB baseball fans probably didn’t recognize about half of the players in their yellow jerseys standing to Beard’s right, waiting to be introduced.
“But we still feel pretty good about things,” the head coach continued.
The Roadrunners’ current roster on GoRunners.com features 18 returners and 18 new players (12 freshmen and six transfers). It’s not yet official, Beard noted on Friday, but it’s clear the group has a large number of new faces. The offseason has been spent trying to acclimate the additions to the team.
They’ll get their first taste of game action when CSUB opens the season at home for a series against UC Davis. The Roadrunners play at Hardt Field at 6 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.
“I do expect turbulence with this group,” Beard said during a recent interview. “And it’s gonna be a matter of how quickly do they respond. Do they get up after they get knocked down?”
CSUB has to replace each of its starting infielders from one season ago and its catcher. Left fielder and senior Andrew Penner is moving to third. Freshman Evan Berkey will fill in at short and freshman Lewis Dirkes will be playing second.
Berkey joined CSUB from La Quinta and Dirkes is from El Cajon.
“Both those guys look like they can compete right now,” Penner said.
But CSUB senior reliever Naithen Dewsnap noted that practice performance isn't always a sure indication of game performance.
“It’s a lot different than it would be like when you're playing in an intrasquad,” Dewsnap said. “As soon as the lights turn on, there’s another team. Different people will play different ways. It just depends on how everybody will adjust to that real game-like situations.”
Also gone are Max Carter, Andrew Hansen and Malik Jones, who combined for 40 starts and more than 263 innings on the mound last season.
Returning is sophomore Aaron Charles and his 4.29 earned run average. Charles went 4-1 in eight starts one season ago. Dewsnap is also back. He had a 2.40 ERA last year in 31 appearances, breaking the program record with 14 saves.
Dewsnap was named a National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Third Team Preseason All-American. He was the first CSUB player ever recognized on the list and only member of the WAC honored on the preseason list.
As of Friday, the planned starting rotation is Charles on Fridays and transfer Kyle King, a Frontier alumnus, on Saturdays.
“I’m pretty certain that our starting four for the first weekend won't be the same as our starting four for the last weekend,” Beard. “... Sunday and Monday are a little foggy. We have one more weekend to try and establish that. And we have a really tough early season schedule so we’re gonna rely on everybody.”
There are four or five freshmen that Beard will be counting on primarily out of the bullpen, he said.
The new group has jelled together well, the players and Beard said. The got to know each other off the field with team-building activities. But Beard didn’t change anything about the offseason or practices, mostly because of the makeup of the team. There was a bit more teaching to do regarding the CSUB system and fundamentals of baseball early in practice.
“We’re gonna have a lot of youth on the field,” Penner said. “We’re gonna throw them out there. We’ve got a bunch of new guys, but they’re ready to go. That’s the biggest thing is how quickly they’re able to pick up the game speed and adapt to this level of competition.”