BY JOELLE MILHOLM Special to The Californian
BAKERSFIELD -- It may not be how Bill Kernen likes it, but the comeback wins keep coming for the Cal State Bakersfield baseball team.
Despite falling behind 1-0 in the first inning against Long Island University on Friday night, the Roadrunners rallied back with a four-run second inning on their way to a 5-3 victory at Hardt Field.
The early deficit marked the sixth time in nine games this season where the Roadrunners (6-3) found themselves trailing before their first at-bat. And for the fifth time they answered, this time with a clutch two-out double by senior designated hitter Dylan Christensen.
"That's not going to hold up, you need to score first in this game," Kernen said. "If you check records, you will find that scoring first is the biggest statistic there is in terms of correlating with wins. We have actually escaped that a little bit. We have battled back, but that's not going to keep happening."
Christensen went 2-for-4 in the game, and along with the two RBIs, threw 12/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts to get his second save of the season. He said he and his teammates have grown accustomed to playing from behind so far this season.
"We are doing a good job of staying positive and not letting it get to us. We have comeback so much now, that we're not afraid to be down," Christensen said. "Coach tried to put us in those situations in the fall of having to battle back and working on things and coming back. But it would be nice to score first."
In the second inning, CSUB senior catcher Cael Brockmeyer started the rally with a single and then scored when sophomore Garrett Pierce ripped a triple to the right-field corner to tie the game, 1-1. Blackbird pitcher Justin Topa then walked senior left fielder Kevin Younger and Chance Gusbeth hit an RBI single before Christensen cashed in with a laser over the third-base bag for a double to increase CSUB's lead to 4-1.
"At the time, it was great to get on the scoreboard, but I didn't think it was going to be the game," Kernen said. "It was very important to get those two runs that Dylan knocked in."
LUI (0-4) added one more run in the sixth and then seriously threatened CSUB's lead in the eighth.
The Blackbirds used a leadoff walk, double and fielder's choice to score a run before Christensen came in to retire Tyler Bender to end the jam with the potential tying run on third base.
Topa (0-2) settled in after the second inning and retired 16 straight 'Runners in a stretch that spanned six innings before Kevin Younger hit a double down the third-base line. Christensen then hit an infield single and an errant throw on the play plated Younger to give CSUB a 5-3 lead.
CSUB starter Jeff McKenzie (2-1) was solid through six innings, giving up two runs on eight hits with three strikeouts and one walk. The left-hander used a sly pickoff move that resulted in runners picked off and was also bailed out by a double play in the sixth.
Friday's showdown against LUI was the first of a three-game series with Game 2 set for tonight at 6 p.m. and the finale slated for Sunday at 1 p.m.