LAS CRUCES, NM—Junior Felix's career high five RBI's led CSU Bakersfield to a 13-8 victory over NM State in the regular season finale for both schools Saturday afternoon.
For the second straight day, the Roadrunners took a first inning lead as Mahlik Jones drove in his league leading 44th run with a single that plated Andrew Penner. Ryan Grotjohn followed with his 42nd RBI of the year to drive in David Metzgar for a 2-0 lead. NMSU starter Jonathan Groff uncorked a wild pitch that went to the backstop, which allowed Jones to score.
Jones singled with one out in the top of the third. Jones attempted to steal second as Groff tried to pick him off. Groff's throw went into right field as Jones earned the steal. Jones was aggressive, rounding third and beating the throw back home for the Roadrunners' fourth run. Grotjohn walked on four pitches.
Max Carter singled, as Grotjohn took second. Chris Butcher relieved Groff. His first batter was Sergio Robles. Butcher got a Robles ground ball, but the Aggies could not complete the double play, resulting in CSUB runners at the corners. Jake Ortega singled up the middle to score Grotjohn. Felix's three-run home run capped off the five-run rally. Felix's homer was just the fourth for the Roadrunners as a team this season.
CSUB starter Andrew Hansen got the first two outs of the bottom of the third before giving up back-to-back singles to Brent Sakurai and LJ Hatch. Austin Botello's single to center scored Sakurai. For the third time in the inning, Hansen went up 0-2 in the count, and for the third time in the inning, an Aggie hitter got on the board. Dan Hetzel smacked a three-run home run, his 13th of the season, to make it an 8-4 game. Hansen would strike out Mason Fishback to conclude the frame.
Carter reached on an error to begin the CSUB fifth. He was able to reach second on the play. A Robles infield single pushed Carter to third. Carter scored on an Ortega single to right. Felix successfully sacrificed Robles and Ortega up a base. With the infield in, Mark Pena grounded out to short. Penner doubled down the right field line to drive in Robles and Ortega. Reyes induced a Metzgar ground out to second to complete the frame.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Botello and Hetzel charted back-to-back doubles to drive in two runs and cut the CSUB lead to five. The Roadrunners loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth. NMSU's fourth pitcher of the day, Matthew McHugh came in to face Felix. On McHugh's second pitch, Felix singled up the middle to drive in two runs.
Garrett Nimmo relieved Hansen to begin the sixth. Nimmo retired the first two batters he faced before he walked Greg Popylisen on four consecutive pitches. Joey Ortiz hit a diving line drive towards right that Robles dove for and came away with the catch for the final out.
Marcus Still singled to short with one out in the eighth. Still advanced to second on a passed ball. Popylisen grounded out to third as Still moved to third. Ortiz singled in Still to make it 13-7. Sakurai recorded a 5-for-5 performance as he recorded his third double that scored Ortiz.
Naithen Dewsnap, the CSUB closer relieved Nimmo. Hatch was his first batter. He fouled out to third on the second pitch he saw from the junior righty. Dewsnap retired to the first batters of the ninth before pinch-hitter Jaron Balman tripled to center field. Tristen Carranza grounded out to third to end the game.
In addition to his home run, Felix was 3-for-4 Penner went 3-for-6 with two RBI's. Ortega was 2-for-3 with two RBI's and two runs scored. Robles had two hits and three runs scored. Jones posted two hits, two runs scored, and a RBI.
In addition to Sakurai's multi-hit performance, Botello and Hetzel each tallied two hits. Hetzel drove four runs. The Roadrunner victory prevented the Aggies (35-20, 19-5) from taking a share of the WAC regular season title. Grand Canyon (28-25, 20-4) earn the league championship in their final year in which they are not eligible for the postseason.
“That was a hard fought game by both clubs,” said CSUB interim head coach Jeremy Beard. “We came out and had excellent offensive production. Our pitchers did a good job other than a couple of mistakes that they took advantage of. We will use this momentum to carry us into the WAC Tournament.”
CSUB (29-22, 13-11 WAC) is the number two seed in next week's WAC Tournament. The Roadrunners will play Thursday, May 25 at 3 p.m. in Mesa, Ariz. CSUB's Hohokam Stadium will be determined on Wednesday when the tournament gets underway.