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By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian
BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff McKenzie is turning into a shutout master for Cal State Bakersfield.
McKenzie, a senior left-hander, threw his third shutout in his last four appearances, giving the Roadrunners a 4-0 Western Athletic Conference win over New Mexico State on Thursday night at Hardt Field.
McKenzie (6-1) allowed four hits, three infield singles and a double, in giving CSUB (18-8, 3-1 Western Athletic Conference) a win in its first WAC home game.
"It's one of the best pitching performances we've had out here," CSUB coach Bill Kernen said. "They're one of the best hitting teams in the country. You go nine innings and shut them out on three or four hits, you've done something really special."
McKenzie accomplished his gem against an Aggies' team that leads the WAC in runs scored, home runs, walks and stolen bases and is second in hits.
"We knew that going in," McKenzie said. "We knew what their hitting plan was. We were able to find out their weaknesses and we were able to jump on that.
"Their weaknesses is how I pitch and they got themselves out."
McKenzie has allowed only one earned run in his last 35-2/3 innings and lowered his earned run average to 1.17.
Hr threw 147 pitches. The Aggies had a leadoff infield hit in the ninth before McKenzie got a lineout and struck out the final two batters to end it. He finished with nine strikeouts, three walks.
Kernen said he felt McKenzie was pitching well and didn't consider replacing him with closer Dylan Christensen, who was warming up in the bullpen.
"If they would've gotten another runner (in the ninth), I would've gone to Christensen," Kernen said. "My arm felt fine," McKenzie said. "I feel I can go as long as I want."
McKenzie got into immediate trouble in the first inning when the Aggies (14-13, 1-3 WAC) started the game with a walk to Michael Medina and a double by Kent Blackstone.
Tanner Rust hit a sharp one-hopper to third baseman Mylz Jones, who looked Medina back to third and threw to first for the out.
Medina broke for the plate and was easily thrown out by first baseman Cael Brockmeyer to complete a double play.
"That took some stress off my back," McKenzie said. "It's tough getting out of those type of situations without giving up a run."
The game was scoreless through the top of the sixth.
"I told my guys, 'Give me a run and we'll win this game,'" McKenzie said.
CSUB responded with three runs in the sixth. Kevin Younger was hit by a pitch with one out and Tyler Shryock lined an RBI triple up the alley in right-center.
After Brockmeyer was walked intentionally, Jones dropped a perfect bunt single along the first base line. That scored Shryock and gave Jones a 17-game hitting streak. The third run scored on a two-out balk against losing pitcher Adam Mott.
CSUB added an insurance run in the eighth. Younger beat out a bunt single to third and Shryock's bloop double to left put runners on second and third with none out. Brockmeyer followed with a sacrifice fly.
"Right now we've got a healthy confidence," Shryock said. "We're getting better."
New Mexico State had baserunners throughout the game. The Aggies were only retired in order three times.
"That happens," McKenzie said. "We just kept pounding away. Even when they get guys on, you just keep doing what you're doing and let them get themselves out."
The series continues with a 6 p.m. game tonight and concludes with a 1 p.m. game on Saturday.