The Bakersfield College baseball team had already produced double-digit runs four times in conference play entering its series with Citrus. Twice in the last week, however, the pitching and defense didn't hold up their end of the bargain, and BC managed to lose despite such stellar showings at the plate.
The Renegades brought it all together on Thursday.
Tim Ruiz, who entered the day with a 7.27 ERA, allowed one run in seven innings for one of his best starts of the year, combining with reliever Brock Slikker to strand 10 Citrus baserunners.
"(Ruiz) was struggling with fastball command, so he was using a lot of off-speed pitches, but with his off-speed pitches, he was able to get some ground balls and a couple strikeouts there," BC coach Kurt Townson said. "I think it's just more commanding all of his pitches to some extent."
As Ruiz and Slikker breezed through the Owls' lineup in the middle innings, the Renegades' steady offense built a commanding lead. Four batters tallied at least two hits each as the Renegades blew out the Owls 11-1.
Left fielder Zamaree Tillman, back in the starting lineup and batting in the cleanup spot, led BC with three RBIs. After opening the scoring with a first-inning sacrifice fly, he smacked a two-run double down the line in left field in the eighth.
Third baseman Manny Herrera got hits in his first three at-bats, including a triple over the head of right fielder Chad Green that kickstarted BC's five-run sixth inning. David Escobar brought home Herrera with a single to left and, later in the inning, Alek Martinez sent a line drive to right-center field with two outs and the bases loaded to add two more runs, before Andrew Townson scored on a passed ball.
Martinez and Trevor Spainhoward posted two hits and a walk apiece.
Ruiz found himself in some of the same challenging situations that troubled Citrus starter Andrew Granados, but was able to escape. That began when Ruiz allowed two baserunners to open each of the first two innings. In the first, he got back-to-back strikeouts and a groundout; in the second, he induced a pop out, a force play at third and a flyout.
When Ruiz allowed a leadoff double to Connor Green in the seventh inning, Slikker entered in relief to help him out, initially issuing a walk but later sealing the deal with a flyout and two strikeouts of his own.
"As I tell all pitchers, you work yourself into jams, you got to work yourself out," Kurt Townson said. "I think Timmy worked himself into a few jams there and was able to work his way out. He had some good defensive plays that obviously helped mitigate some of those bigger innings for them as well."
BC turned two double plays, 4-6-3 in the sixth and 5-4-3 in the ninth. Slikker also picked off Jared Gener in the seventh.
Chad Green went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks and drove in the Owls' lone run, scoring his brother Connor. Even on that play, Citrus' most successful of the night, the Renegades were still able to record an out by tagging Diego Gonzales at third.
Luis Fuentes (in the second inning) and Jordan Lopez (in the eighth, on an infield single to shortstop) drove in the remaining runs for BC, which totaled 13 hits.
The Renegades improved to 15-21 (8-9 Western State South Conference) with four games to play. When they travel to Glendora for their final matchup with the Owls on Saturday, they will have a chance at their first sweep of the year, as well as their first .500 conference record since 2021.
"We don't talk about nine innings," Townson said. "It's an elephant — you can't eat it. So we just talk about one pitch at a time and winning innings."
Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.