BAKERSFIELD, Calif.—CSU Bakersfield held off a ninth rally threat from the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley as the Roadrunners defeated the Vaqueros 6-5 to open a Western Athletic Conference baseball series Friday night.
The Vaqueros took a 2-0 lead when Ivan Estrella singled in a pair of runs with two outs in the top of the second. Andrew Penner broke the seal for the Roadrunners in the bottom of the third with a two-out single that scored Mark Pena.
David Metzgar and Ryan Grotjohn posted back-to-back singles to begin the bottom of the sixth. Max Carter’s flew out to center, but the ball was deep enough to allow both runners to move up a base. Mahlik Jones appeared to have struck out on a 2-2 count, but Austin Oakes, the UTRGV catcher could not hold onto the tip, keeping Jones alive. Jones hit a grounder to Estrella at shortstop. Estrella committed an error as Metzgar scored to tie the game. Grotjohn and Jones were both safe on the play.
Jake Ortega bunted. The ball was fielded by first baseman Victor Garcia, Jr. Garcia, Jr. attempted to come home. He bobbled the ball and elected to try to throw Ortega out at first. He threw the ball down the first baseline allowing both CSUB baserunners to score. Ortega advanced to third and came home on a Cole Valletta single. Carter hit Austyn Tengan with a pitch. Josh Witherspoon, the Vaquero’s scheduled Saturday starter relieved Johnson. Both runners took off on a double steal on Witherspoon’s first pitch. Oakes attempted to throw out Valletta. His throw sailed into left, allowing Valletta to score.
“We were able to grind out at-bats against a couple of pitchers who had an outstanding performance,” said Roadrunner interim head coach Jeremy Beard. “We are going to try and put pressure on the defense and they didn’t handle that very well as we were able to get the five spot in that inning.”
Carter, the CSUB starter retired 11 in a row at one point before CSUB committed an error with one out in the top of the seventh. Oakes, a .182 hitter coming into the game, recorded his second hit of the night to give the Vaqueros runners on first and second. Estrella flew out to right as Tyler Torres moved up 90 feet. Conrad McMahon singled up the middle to drive in Torres. Cris Castillo flew out to center to conclude the frame.
Carter scattered six hits over 98 pitches before giving way to CSUB closer Naithen Dewnsap with one out in the eighth. Dewsnap completed the 1-2-3 eighth and got the first two outs of the ninth before Oakes reached on an infield single. Estrella singled up the middle to bring up the tying run in McMahon. McMahon’s liner up the middle scored Oakes.
“Max did a great job tonight,” Beard said. “His pitch count was getting up there and we didn’t want to get in a situation in which we didn’t get to our closer at the end of the game.”
Anibal Leal pinch hit for Castillo and walked to load the bases. Anthony Gomez pinch-ran for Castillo as the go-ahead run. Austin Siener checked his swing on a 1-2 count for a ball. He stayed alive with a foul ball. Siener would work out a walk to make it 6-5. Jose Garcia took a strike before a Dewnsap pitch bounced off the backstop. The ball immediately went back to Ortega as all of the runners remained on their base. Garcia fouled off the third pitch of the at-bat to go down 1-2 in the count. He battled back to make it 3-2 before flying out to center to end the game.
Grotjohn put up his 10th multi-hit game of the season (in 21 starts) as he went 3-for-4 with a run scored. Penner was 2-for-4. McMahon and Estrella both tallied two hits and two RBI’s. Despite the UTRGV threat in the ninth, Dewsnap recorded his fifth save. His total is the second most in a season and ties him with three others including Carter (2014) on the season chart at CSUB (12-9, 1
The series continues Saturday. Coverage begins on the WAC Digital Network at 6 p.m.