College

Thursday, Mar 13 2014 10:22 PM

Roadrunners hope bats heat up as WAC season starts

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    By Nick Ellis/ Special to The Californian

    CSUB's starting pitcher Taylor Aikenhead delivers a pitch during Friday afternoon's game against Milwaukee at Hardt Field.

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BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer jevans@bakersfield.com

This is not the type of season Bill Kernen envisioned.

Kernen admits he's battling a lot of uneasiness these days as Cal State Bakersfield continues to struggle.

Related Info

Grand Canyon at CSUB

6 p.m. today, 6 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday at Hardt Field

Records: CSUB 6-9, Grand Canyon 7-8

CSUB probable starters: Taylor Aikenhead (1-3, 4.98 ERA) tonight, James Barragan (1-1, 2.00) Saturday, Austin Davis (1-2, 2.83) Sunday

Grand Canyon probable starters: Jorge Perez (1-3, 4.61), Andrew Naderer (2-2, 4.55), Ethan Evanko (2-1, 2.91)

Series: First meeting

The Western Athletic Conference baseball season begins tonight at 6 when the Roadrunners (6-9) play host to Grand Canyon, a first-year NCAA Division I program after years of success in Division II.

"We can't hit," Kernen said after Wednesday's 4-3 loss at home against Gonzaga, CSUB's third straight defeat and seventh loss in its last eight games. "Our defense has been great. Our pitching has been good enough and there are games when it's been very good.

"But we're not hitting. No matter how good our pitching and defense is, if we don't score any runs it's not going to happen."

The hitting woes have been there since the season began.

"The one day we did hit, we left (a school-record) 17 guys on base. We haven't had a game yet this year when we really played well offensively."

Kernen's focus is on the WAC regular season, to make sure the Roadrunners finish in the top six, which would qualify them for the WAC Tournament in late May and give them a shot at an NCAA Tournament berth.

"We're not going into this (the WAC season) with a lot of confidence," Kernen said. "And we're not going into it in a very good gear.

"One of these days I think we're going to fire it up. I know these guys are better than this. But you can't say that until they actually do it."

The weekend pitching rotation is set with senior left-hander Taylor Aikenhead starting tonight, junior right-hander James Barragan getting the start for Saturday's 6 p.m. game and sophomore lefty Austin Davis pitching Sunday's 1 p.m. game.

Grand Canyon is 7-8 overall but has won three straight.

The Antelopes' coach is former major leaguer Andy Stankiewicz, who led Grand Canyon to a 40-19 record last year and into the Division II national finals.

"I don't know very much about them because we've never played them before," Kernen said. "But they'll be well coached, I know that.

"And right now anybody we play is someone to be concerned with because we've played two teams in a row that were 2-15 or something."

Gonzaga was 3-12 prior to beating CSUB and Portland was 2-10 before beating the Roadrunners twice last weekend.

"I would have thought we would have broken this (losing) by now," he said. "But it's possible we just aren't good enough yet. That's what happened in 2010 and it's what happened in 2012. It feels exactly the same way.

"We're doing everything we can to fight against it, but it feels exactly like that, and that scares me. The only saving grace we have: We still have the entire (WAC) year to improve because it's all about the conference."

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