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By Rod Thornburg / Special toThe Californian
BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer email@example.com
Cal State Bakersfield again was unable to beat a ranked baseball team Tuesday night.
But the Roadrunners are getting closer.
No. 21-ranked UC Irvine needed 10 innings to get past the Roadrunners, 5-4 at Hardt Field.
"We had our chances for sure," CSUB coach Bill Kernen said. "I'm proud of the way they played. Twelve hits against that quality pitching and you could make a case that we outplayed them."
Irvine (16-5) beat CSUB 6-1 on March 5 in Irvine. The 'Runners (17-8) are 0-4 against ranked teams this season.
"You know if you're playing one of the top teams in the country and you're out there playing them straight up, and having a dogfight with them and you know you belong on the field with them, it does a lot for your confidence," Kernen said.
CSUB had a golden opportunity to win.
The Roadrunners had runners on second and third with one out in the 10th, but failed to score when Frank Martinez fouled out to first and Garrett Pierce struck out.
In the eighth with CSUB trailing 4-3, the Roadrunners loaded the bases with one out, but failed to score when Martinez lined softly to second and Pierce struck out.
The Roadrunners had only one hit in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Kernen said he thought the odds were in CSUB's favor to at least tie it and possibly win it in the 10th.
"I'm shocked, actually," he said. "I figured we'd at least get a fly ball to get a run across, but it didn't happen."
CSUB tied it in the ninth when Jordie Hein led off with a single, took second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a sacrifice and scored on Kevin Younger's sacrifice fly.
But Irvine scored the winning run in the 10th. Connor Spencer drew a leadoff walk and took second on a sacrifice.
A passed ball advanced Spencer to third, and he scored with two outs, when Jerry McClanahan hit a line drive off pitcher Dylan Christensen's leg.
"We gave them some things, but they gave us some things, too," Kernen said.
Irvine's fourth run came on a double steal.
Leading 3-1, Irvine had Mike Duarte at third and Kris Paulino at first with two outs and left-hander Jonathan Montoya on the mound.
Paulino broke for second, then hesitated as Montoya looked at him. At that moment, Duarte broke for home. Montoya was slow to read the play and Duarte scored when Montoya stepped off the pitching rubber and threw wide to the plate.
"It was like he (Paulino) was looking at his coach, which was curious to me," Montoya said. "I heard someone yell, 'step off.'
"I checked the runner and sure enough, he was booking for home. I tried to get rid of it as fast as I could but it was a little outside."
As a left-hander working out of the stretch position, Montoya's back was to Duarte. Montoya said it was only the second time an opposing runner had stolen home against him.
"The other time was in high school when I was in a windup," he said. "I've never thrown from the windup again with a runner on third."
Kernen said he hadn't seen the play in many years.
"We allowed him (Duarte) to get too big a lead and didn't pay attention to him," Kernen said. "We rely on the third baseman to see how far the runner is off. Still, it wouldn't work if you didn't allow a big lead. ...
"I guess if UC Irvine has to use a trick play to beat us, maybe we're doing the right thing."
CSUB scored its first run in the fourth on what is usually a routine out.
With Cael Brockmeyer on third with two outs, Frank Martinez struck out on a pitch in the dirt. As Martinez ran to first, Irvine catcher Jerry McClanahan's perfect throw was dropped by first baseman Ronnie Schaeffer.
CSUB scored in the sixth on Tyler Shryock's leadoff double and Oscar Sanay's two-out triple. Hein pulled CSUB within 4-3 in the seventh when he walked, stole second and came around on two wild pitches.
Irvine convered a hit batter and walk into a second-inning run, an error by shortstop Shryock into a third-inning run and a single, triple and double steal into two runs in the seventh. And a walk set up the go-ahead run in the 10th.
CSUB plays its first Western Athletic Conference home series Thursday through Saturday against New Mexico State. Game times are 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday.