LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The Roadrunner softball team opened the 2017 Western Athletic Conference Tournament with a pair of exciting games that resulted in a split for CSU Bakersfield. The ‘Runners overcame a six-run deficit to defeat UMKC 11-10 in the first game of the day. In the second, CSUB led top-seeded New Mexico State through five and a half innings, but the Aggies took a 7-2 victory.
“We talked about having some grit this year,” said Crissy Buck-Ziegler, Head Coach of the ‘Runners. “The team is really starting to believe that it doesn't matter how many runs down we are in the ball game. They keep playing hard and that's what they did in the first game. They saw the ball extremely well and they trusted themselves. I was proud of them.”
Buck-Ziegler continued on to talk about the tough loss in Game 2: “I thought we played extremely well. When you are the five seed playing against the number one seed and we are holding them for six innings, you make a bad pitch and that happens. I like how kept fighting. We kept hitting the ball right on the nose and it kept going right to people. That's part of the game.”
The ‘Runners took an early lead with a run in the top of the first inning. Junior Kaylynn Burt earned a lead-off walk and moved to second on senior Selena Gonzalez's sacrifice bunt. Senior Jo Larios hit a long single to the center field wall, driving Burt home and giving CSUB the lead.
In the top of the second, CSUB extended its lead after setting up a bases-loaded, one out situation. Outfielder Julea Cavazos singled to lead off the frame and was moved around to third after sophomore Nadia Amezcua was hit by a pitch and designated player Karah Wiseman squeaked a single through the left side. Freshman Cydney Curran doubled to the right field wall, driving in a pair of runs as CSUB took a 3-0 lead.
UMKC responded in the bottom half of the second with a pair of runs. Abbi Johnson launched a deep fly ball down the left field line that just managed to stay fair for a solo home run. Later in the inning, Morgan Byrn singled to drive in the second run as UMKC closed the gap with a 3-2 score.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, UMKC loaded the bases with no outs and tied the score on Ashlin O'Brien's RBI walk. Byrn came to the plate and delivered a grand slam over the left field fence, putting the ‘Roos ahead 7-3.
CSUB starter Summer Evans was removed from the game after giving up a single and Lyndsay Klimenko came on to relieve. The senior pitcher induced CSUB's second double play of the game and helped the ‘Runners get out of the inning with just a four-run deficit.
The ‘Runners responded with a run in the top of the fifth to make the score 7-4. With Cavazos on second base, Amezcua singled up the middle and her teammate motored around third and slid safely into home. UMKC pushed the lead back out to four runs in the bottom half of the frame on Kendra Leach's RBI single to right field. The ‘Roos went on to score two more runs in the inning and take a 10-4 advantage.
CSUB would not go down without a fight as the 'Runners managed a pair of runs in the top of the sixth to push the deficit back down to four innings. With Burt on second and pinch runner Ebony Harrison on first, Chris Hipa singled through the right side to plate Burt. An errant throw allowed the speedy Harrison to come around and score as well, making the score 10-6.
Down to their final out and in a four-run hole, the ‘Runners did the unthinkable and rallied to take a lead. Burt's third home run of the season drove scored three runs as CSUB clawed back to a 10-9 score.
With no ‘Runners on, after Gonzalez singled and Larios walked, Hipa blasted a double off the right field wall to tie the game at 10 runs apiece. Larios ended up being the game-winning run as the senior catcher scored from third on a wild pitch to put the ‘Runners ahead 11-10.
After having the script flipped, UMKC found itself down to its final three outs. Klimenko returned to the circle and got the final three outs, two grounders and a pop up to second base, to preserve the win for the ‘Runners.
Burt's 2-for-4 performance with three RBI on the home run played a major factor in the final inning, but CSUB had three batters with three hits in the game. Hipa went 3-for-5 with two RBI while Wiseman and Curry both went 3-for-4 against UMKC. Larios was 2-for-3 with an RBI and added a pair of walks.
The ‘Roos got a great performance out of Burns, who was 3-for-5 from the plate with five RBI while Sydney Garcia went a quiet 3-for-3 from the nine hole. Klimenko earned her fourth win of the season after pitching four strong innings in relief. Leach took the loss after giving up five runs in just 0.2 innings pitched.
CSUB tallied 17 hits in the game, tying for second-most in a single game in Bakersfield's Division I history. The victory is also the third consecutive first-round win over UMKC in the WAC Tournament as the ‘Runners have developed a habit of defeating the ‘Roos in the postseason.
CSUB jumped out to another early lead thanks to Larios' first-inning home run. The shot carried just over the left field fence for a 2-0 advantage as Burt was on base. The Aggies answered right back in the bottom half of the frame. Rachel Rodriguez led off with a triple down the line and scored on Haley Nakamura's RBI ground out. The run cut CSUB's lead in half, but the ‘Runner defense limited the damage.
The Aggies loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the third inning. Evans, who earned her second start of the day, induced a grounder to get CSUB out of the jam with its 2-1 lead intact.
In the bottom of the fifth, Nakamura tripled off the base of the right field wall to set up a chance to tie the game with just one out. Evans proceeded to strike out the WAC Player of the Year, Kelsey Horton, and induced a grounder to strand Nakamura and end the threat once again.
NMSU continued to pressure and loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning. Evans got an Aggie pinch hitter to pop up in foul territory for the second out, but an infield single by Rodriguez brought home the tying run. A walk then scored the go-ahead run as NMSU took its first lead of the game. Horton redeemed herself with a line drive blast to the left center gap that cleared the fence for a grand slam. Klimenko came in to relieve and got CSUB out of the inning, but NMSU came away with a 7-2 lead.
The CSUB comeback magic would not work in Game 2 as a game-ending double play cut down the only baserunner of the inning. NMSU's Samaria Diaz earned the victory out of the bullpen, pitching 3.2 scoreless innings in relief. Evans took the loss after five solid innings of work, but allowing six runs in the sixth for a total of seven in the contest. The junior righty reset her season-high with four strikeouts.
Larios was 1-for-3 in the game with CSUB's two RBI on her home run in the first. The ‘Runners were only able to tack on four other hits, including a pair from Cavazos. Amezcua was hit by a pitch twice while going 0-for-1 from the plate against the Aggies.
With the loss, CSUB will meet the winner of the Utah Valley/UMKC game to be played Thursday evening. Friday's matchup will be an elimination game for the ‘Runners and their opponents. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the NM State Softball Complex. As with all of the games at the WAC Tournament, fans can watch the ‘Runners live via the WAC Digital Network.