Despite it being Cal State Bakersfield's first year in the league, Monday's announcement that someone in the baseball program had been named Big West Player of the Week felt like it had been a long time coming.
Center fielder Jacen Roberson became the first Roadrunner to win the award, taking the honor after an excellent showing in a four-game sweep of Cal Poly, where he went 8-of-15 at the plate with two home runs and 10 RBIs.
While happy to be the first CSUB player to earn that distinction in the Big West, Roberson was mostly in mood of deferral when asked about it.
"It feels amazing to be recognized for something like that," he said. "But honestly, it was definitely a team effort. We were all just at our best and it showed."
Roberson isn't the first Roadrunner to make a strong case for Player of the Week honors in 2021.
Tyler Jorgensen (.390) and Evan Berkey (.384) are currently second and third in the Big West batting average race. Roberson himself seemed to have a good shot in April, when he became the first player in program history to hit for the cycle in a game against UC Davis.
But it was this weekend against Poly that put the Garces Memorial High School grad over the hump. He had multiple RBIs in all four games and played the hero in virtually identical fashion in the first two.
He kicked off a five-run seventh inning with a two-run single Friday, breaking a 4-4 tie in a game CSUB went on to win 9-5. He then broke another 4-4, seventh-inning tie with a two-run RBI in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday, this time doubling in what became a 7-6 win.
He then proceeded to homer in the final two games, raising his slugging percentage to .617, the second highest total in the conference. His offensive output also came at an ideal time for a CSUB team coming off its worst showing of the season.
After outpacing many people's expectations in their inaugural Big West season, the Roadrunners were knocked off course a week earlier, when they suffered a four-game home sweep at the hands of CSUN.
Unsurprisingly, the mood in the clubhouse was much improved at the end of the Poly series.
"We got our faces beat in last weekend and we kind of needed that to reset," Roberson said. "We needed to get beat up to realize what we need to do in this league. And that’s exactly what we did.”
Picked to finish last in the preseason, the Roadrunners enter a critical stretch in third place in the Big West with a record of 15-9.
While the final two series against Big West leaders UC Irvine (21-7) and UC Santa Barbara (21-11) are getting the most attention, the Roadrunners have a big test before that, when they travel to face red-hot Long Beach State this coming weekend. Fresh off a four-game sweep of UC Riverside, Long Beach also earned splits against both Santa Barbara and Irvine in its two previous series.
Hopeful the team has worked the struggles of the CSUN series out of its system, Roberson says the Roadrunners are prepared for what is arguably the toughest stretch of their season.
"We want to play our best baseball and I think we're on the right path for that," he said. "We definitely want to finish off this year strong."