The comeback kids of Bakersfield


Darryl Webb

The CSUB baseball team celebrates its victory over Seattle on May 24 at Hohokam Stadium. Photo by Darryl Webb/WAC

Esteban Ramirez

Sports Editor

The Western Athletic Conference Tournament finale was fitting for a screenplay from CSU Bakersfield baseball coach Bill Kernen as the drama was at an all-time high.

The CSUB (36-22-1) baseball team rallied behind a four-run eighth inning to beat Seattle University 5-4 on May 24 and won its first WAC Tournament title.

CSUB will play against top-seeded UCLA in the NCAA regionals at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los Angeles on May 29 at 8 p.m. The winner of that matchup will play the winner of Ole Miss and Maryland.

After keeping its season alive on May 23 by winning 6-5 in the tenth inning over SU, CSUB saw itself down 4-1 heading into the top of the eighth inning. After redshirt senior Kris Cayton drew a walk and two back-to-back singles by sophomore Joey Sanchez and senior Jordie Hein, junior Mylz Jones ripped the ball down the right infield line for a three-run double to tie the game.

“I was trying to hit the ball hard somewhere because I knew the bases were loaded, and I just needed to put the ball somewhere,” Jones said. “Fortunately, it found a gap and got through. I was so pumped just to tie the game and to put ourselves in a position to take the lead, it was unreal.”

Sophomore David Metzgar followed and delivered once again with a single to right center field driving in Jones from second base.

“It was unreal,” Metzgar said. “I knew that the game was on the line. We came back, and I knew we weren’t going to go down. I didn’t have any doubt in my mind that I was going to get it done. With Mylz Jones coming in clutch, I think pressure was taken off, and I was like, ‘this game’s over’ because I had all the confidence. We had all the momentum and once I get this in, [senior Nick Rogowski] is going to shut them down.”

CSUB holds up its WAC Tournament Championship after the 5-4 win over Seattle on May 24. Photo by Darryl Webb/WAC
CSUB holds up its WAC Tournament Championship after the 5-4 win over Seattle on May 24.
Photo by Darryl Webb/WAC

He added that as he drove in the game-winning run he couldn’t breathe from the excitement.

“I couldn’t breathe as I was rounding first because I was so pumped up, and I took a big turn,” he said. “When I got back to the bag, I was just screaming and enjoying the moment with my coach.”

The Roadrunners pitcher Rogowski, who relieved WAC Pitcher of the Year and senior Hayden Carter in the sixth inning, came back out in the eighth and put out the side of the order. Then after CSUB was unable to add to its lead, Rogowski came back in the ninth to close out the game. He forced Seattle’s senior Brian Olson to ground out and then forced another groundout to junior Sheldon Stober.

However, with only one out left for the Roadrunners, Rogowski hit sophomore Brock Carpenter, who hit a home run in the second inning.

He then walked sophomore Griffin Andreychuk. Rogowski then got some much-needed help from freshman outfielder Drew Seelman and forced senior Grant Newton to line out to right field for the final out.

“Our team never gives up,” said Kernen to “I can’t say that I wasn’t concerned, as we only got one run out of a couple situations where we had the bases loaded. We got another chance, and we broke it open in the eighth inning.”

Jones went two-for-five hitting and drove in three runs. Metzgar also went two-for-five hitting and drove in one run. Metzgar won WAC Tournament Most Valuable Player. He hit .409 with one home run and five RBIs for the tournament. Junior Chance Gusbeth, sophomore Steven Gee and Sanchez joined Metzgar on the All-Tournament team. Carter pitched for 5 1/3 innings, struck out four batters and gave up three runs.

Rogowski (4-5) pitched 3 2/3 innings, struck out two batters, gave up only one run and earned the win. Seattle’s Skyler Genger (6-7) received the loss.

“I was pretty familiar [with coming in for relief] and I was just glad I was able to come in after Hayden and try to keep the score down,” Rogowski said. “We were threatening all game so I knew our offense would probably score some runs later on the game.”

He added that things got interesting at the end, but he thinks games like these will help them down the road.

“It’s always harry at the end but we always seem to come out on top. I think that’s going to help us later down the road against teams like UCLA, Maryland and Ole Miss. They’re used to killing teams like us, and we’re used to beating big teams like them.”

Metzgar said that he was a little nervous as the ball was hit.

“I was thinking ‘oh no it’s in the gap.’ Then I see Seelman, who came up big for us this weekend, he made the catch look so easy. I was proud, and I was so pumped. I couldn’t even take it all in. I’m still taking it in right now.”

Carter said that it was kind of a relief to win the title.

“We have come up short the last two years, so to be able to win it the last season of my baseball career is definitely very rewarding,” he said. “Kernen brought every single one of us in and so it was definitely cool to send him off like this because it’s his last year.”

The CSUB baseball team rushed the field after sophomore Joey Sanchez's walk-off walk gave the Roadrunners a 6-5 win on May 23 at Hohokam Stadium. Photo by Darryl Webb/WAC
The CSUB baseball team rushed the field after sophomore Joey Sanchez’s walk-off walk gave the Roadrunners a 6-5 win on May 23 at Hohokam Stadium.
Photo by Darryl Webb/WAC

He added that it will be fun getting to play against the teams in the NCAA regionals.

“We’re looking forward to playing UCLA, Ole Miss and Maryland,” he said. “Three big-name schools and it’ll be pretty fun getting to match up against them, and hopefully, we do well down there.”

The Roadrunners kept their season alive on May 23 when they rallied to give the Redhawks their first loss of the WAC Tournament.

CSUB fell behind in the ninth inning 5-3, thanks to a wild pitch from Seattle pitcher Garrett Anderson. The game went to extra innings but didn’t last long as the Roadrunners survived and beat the Redhawks 6-5 on a walk-off walk from Sanchez.

“We didn’t play well,” said Kernen said. “We were able to overcome it with determination, heart, and guts and the will to win. It wasn’t very pretty, we weren’t going to leave the field with less runs.”

Earlier that day, CSUB beat Sacramento State 4-0 behind a pitching gem from sophomore Steven Gee. Gee pitched a complete game, gave up only four hits and no runs in the win. On May 22, they lost to Seattle 9-3, which gave the Roadrunners their first loss of the tournament.

On May 21, CSUB beat North Dakota 11-1 behind seven inning pitched and six strikeouts from Carter. Metzgar led the way hitting with two hits, scored twice and had two RBIs. Gusbeth added two hits and drove in one run.

“Hayden did what he always does,” Kernen said. “He located his fastball and mixed in his other pitches when he needed to.”

CSUB now puts its attention on the NCAA Baseball Regionals and UCLA.

Metzgar said that the close games that they’ve had against Seattle and other teams throughout the season has prepared them for teams like UCLA.

“We are overlooked a lot by the big programs but we’ve overcome those deficits,” he said. “With the guys we have, we’re grinders. We won’t stop until they make us stop.”