May 23—Hoping to extend the Cal State Bakersfield lead by coming home from second base on a Jo Stevens single, Aaron Casillas was gunned down at the plate in the seventh inning of a home game against UC Irvine Saturday.
Though the gamble didn’t pan out, one could forgive Casillas’ boldness, as up to that point, everything else had gone his way during the game.
Casillas drove in five runs to help CSUB build up an eight-run lead, and the Roadrunners overcame a disastrous eighth inning to edge the 20th-ranked team in the country 11-9 in the second game of a doubleheader at Hardt Field Saturday.
Since beating then-No. 23 UNLV on March 6, 2018, CSUB had lost five straight to ranked opponents, including a 2-1 loss to the Anteaters in Saturday’s first game.
But the ‘Runners established control early in game two. After Kobe Silva and Nick Grossman RBIs made it 2-0 in the first inning, Casillas doubled the lead with a two-run single.
He added another two-run single during a four-run third inning, and had his fifth RBI with another single in the seventh. Before Casillas was thrown out at home, Grossman came around on Stevens’ third RBI, and CSUB had built up an 11-3 lead.
After scoring just five runs in a four-game set against Long Beach State last weekend, and just one in Saturday’s opener, game two was a needed bounce back for the Roadrunner offense, as Casillas, Stevens, Silva and Grossman all had three hits.
Most impressively, they did it against Anteater ace Michael Frias, who entered the game 8-0, but was chased after 2 1/3, allowing eight runs (seven earned).
“Big confidence boost,” Casillas said of the offensive showing. “A lot of guys were struggling (but) some guys showed up and put some balls in play, even if they were outs. Hitting’s all about confidence and all the guys the second game did great.”
Every run was needed, as an eight-run lead shrunk drastically during a six-run eighth inning for Irvine. The big hit of the fray was a three-run home run by Mike Peabody, who blasted a three-run shot to right field.
With the tying run on first and one out in the ninth, Peabody came up again, and CSUB coach Jeremy Beard brought in freshman Jack Lee to close the door.
Peabody put a brief scare into the Hardt Field crowd when he lifted another ball to right field, but he got under it just enough for Grossman to make the catch in front of the warning track. Lee then completed the save by forcing Jacob Castro to fly out to left.
“Jack Lee’s been there for us all year,” Beard said. “Jack came in and he’s a kid that’s very competitive. He told me he was going to get a ground ball out and he got two pop up outs that seemed a little sketchy in the wind and we were able to come up with them and win a ball game.”
The win halted an eight-game win streak for Irvine and moved CSUB to 17-14 in the Big West. Picked to finish last in the league, the outcome also provided a signature win for a program that’s already exceeded expectations.
“We’re proud of these guys,” Beard said. “We have been all year. They’re relentless … they believe they can beat anybody they play. I think we should all be proud of the group. Sometimes it’s hard to be accepted and respected at the same time when you’re trying to earn some stripes.”
The Roadrunner will aim for a series split when the teams meet at 1 p.m. in the series finale Sunday.