The Cal State Bakersfield baseball team produced one of its steadiest offensive performances in recent memory Monday afternoon.
Eight starters reached base at least twice, seven straight innings yielded at least one run, and the Roadrunners doubled up Pacific on their way to a 12-6 nonconference win at Hardt Field.
They demonstrated a much-improved ability to hit with runners in scoring position, which had plagued them over the weekend in their Big West Conference opener at UC Santa Barbara.
"That had a lot to do with our execution and our ability to move runners over," CSUB coach Jeremy Beard said. "Whether it be a safety squeeze or a bunt or hitting behind a runner with a guy at second base, we did a really nice job of just playing really good team offense right there."
The squeeze in question came from freshman Jacob Gutierrez, who bunted Konnor Palmeira over from third base in the fourth inning to give CSUB its decisive lead at 4-3. Gutierrez, a Ridgeview graduate who made his debut over the weekend when the coaching staff decided not to redshirt him after all, drove in two more runs on a two-out bases-loaded single in the following frame.
"Guti brings a sense of eagerness to the baseball field," Beard said. "... It was an important decision to bring him out of his thought process on a redshirt year, and so what we're looking at doing is just continuing to develop him. But he adds a flavor to this team that's really exciting. He works hard every day and he's extremely talented, but he's still just a puppy."
Gutierrez's showing was striking because he was new to the starting lineup, but plenty of fixtures did well, too. Right fielder AJ Miller gave CSUB its first two runs on a home run to right field in the second inning and added a sacrifice fly and James Bell went 3-for-5 from the designated hitter spot. Two-way player Kyler Stancato smacked a home run of his own and Nick Salas drew three walks — he leads the Big West in that category.
CSUB has seen its pitching rotation disrupted by various delays this season. The Roadrunners sent out five relievers, including Stancato, on Monday, who all threw adequately. Ryan Figueroa picked up the win with one earned run allowed in 2 2/3 innings of work. Only three of the Tigers' six runs were earned.
CSUB leads the Big West with 41 errors — the next closest team has 22 — including two Tuesday, one of which allowed Pacific to equalize at 3-3 in the fourth inning when Ben Nemivant hit a line drive off Gutierrez's glove. The other moved over a pair of runners prior to Nemivant's two-RBI single in the sixth — a single that the second baseman Salas couldn't bring in.
"Actually, I felt a lot better about today's defense with different guys in positions that were working," Beard said. "Our third base has been solidified with (Matthew) Kurata coming out of the backup catching hole. He's done a really nice job at third for us, but defense is certainly something that we need to continue to shore up."
Pacific was led by Nemivant, who went 3-for-5 with four RBIs and is now hitting .500 on the year (fourth in the nation). Chase Graves was the only other player to drive in a run, the one that gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but right fielder John-Howard Bobo did go 3-for-3 with two doubles and a walk.
The two teams went back and forth early, with Nemivant knocking in runs to answer Miller and Stancato's homers, before a big fourth inning helped the Roadrunners pull away. CSUB drew four walks and two hits off three Pacific pitchers to go up 8-3. The squads traded two runs apiece in the sixth inning before a Bell RBI single and a Palmeira RBI groundout to counter Nemivant's final hit set the final margin at 12-6.
The Roadrunners snapped a nine-game losing streak, a result of sweeps by top teams Stanford, Ohio State and UCSB.
"It was really easy for a team to let down after that, and we didn't," Beard said.
They will now travel to face UC San Diego for their second conference series beginning Friday.