Baseball Preview: Cal State Bakersfield

Sophomore Grahamm Wiest

Unlike Fullerton's first two opponents this weekend – USC, which has one of the most storied traditions in college baseball, and Nebraska, who had a lengthy history of not having much success prior to the late 1990's – Cal State Bakersfield had no history in baseball until the school decided in 2006 to move their athletic program to Division I and fielded a team for the first time in 2009.

Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners

  • Overall Record – 25-30
  • Conference Record – Independent  
  • Post-Season – None
  • RPI/ISR – 168/100
  • Pre-season ranking – None
  • Predicted conference finish – 5th by the WAC coaches, 5th by Baseball America, 4th by Perfect Game and 2nd by Easton College Baseball Today

Unlike Fullerton's first two opponents this weekend – USC, which has one of the most storied traditions in college baseball, and Nebraska, who had a lengthy history of not having much success prior to the late 1990's – Cal State Bakersfield had no history in baseball until the school decided in 2006 to move their athletic program to Division I and fielded a team for the first time in 2009.  Former Cal State Northridge head coach and Fullerton pitching coach Bill Kernen was chosen to build the program from scratch.

As would be expected, Bakersfield took their lumps in their first season when they went 13-37.  The Roadrunners showed significant improvement in 2010 when they went 26-30.  Bakersfield took another leap forward in 2011 behind a strong pitching staff when they went 33-22 and were on the bubble to get into a regional with a 55 RPI but a 2-11 stretch from late April through the middle May sank their hopes despite a 6-1 finish when they swept series against Fresno State and Cal Poly.  The Roadrunners regressed in 2012 after most of those pitchers either moved on or were injured and they fell back under .500 at 25-30.

Bakersfield got off to a solid start last season with a series win against Kansas State, who played in regionals the three previous seasons, and a midweek win against Fresno State but things started to go downhill from there as the Roadrunners went on a 4-13 skid that pretty much buried their hopes for the season.  In addition to losing most of their pitching from 2011, Bakersfield also lost quite a bit of offense and their team average went down about 25 points, they averaged a run less per game and they scored three runs or less in 23 of their games.  The Roadrunners also had issues with the pitching staff as they saw their ERA go up by over a run and they allowed at least five runs 26 times and went 4-22 in those games.

Bakersfield has wanted to get into a conference since they decided to move up to Division I but the Big West, whom they assumed would be a likely destination, has denied their overtures.  It is interesting to note that after going 4-13 in their inaugural season against Big West teams that the Roadrunners have been much more competitive against that conference with a 26-28 record over the last three seasons.  Bakersfield finally found a home this season when the WAC invited them in after they had several teams leave the conference, including Hawaii taking all of their teams except for football to the Big West. 

The Roadrunners have high hopes that they can make a run at a regional with an experienced team that returns their five best hitters and six of their seven best pitchers along with one of their weekend SP's from 2011 who was a medical redshirt last season.  If they are going to make a run at a regional, Bakersfield will need to shore up a defense that made 86 errors and contributed to 50 unearned runs being scored in 2012.

 

Offense

  • Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 101 from 2009-2011 (increases offense by 1%). Dimensions are 327-370-390-370-327. 
  • Batting Average – .261 (234th in the NCAA)
  • Runs Per Game – 4.7 (212)
  • Home Runs – 19 (195)
  • Slugging Percentage – .358 (208)
  • On Base Percentage – .351 (193)
  • Walks – 180 (188)
  • HBP's – 80 (38)
  • Strikeouts – 414 (xx)
  • Sac Bunts – 34 (203)
  • Stolen Bases – 29 (268)

 

 

Lineup

Bakersfield has an experienced infield with starters back at every position except for 3B.  The Roadrunners made 47 errors at 2B, SS and 3B so that will be something they need to fix.

C – JR #9 Cael Brockmeyer (RH – .285/.380/.460, 6-32-0.  '11 – .244/.299/.382, 2-13-0) is a big man in the middle of the lineup who led the team in HR and RBI and was second in OBP and SLG among the regulars.  He is a patient hitter who had 22 BB's and also got on base 10 times by HBP's.  Runners were 31-42 on SB attempts in 2012 against Brockmeyer and he is average at blocking pitches.  He is ranked as the #5 prospect in the WAC by Baseball America for the June draft.  Brockmeyer split time between C and 1B last season and SR #16 Frank Martinez (RH – .294/.347/.471, 3-18-0 in 85 AB's) usually caught once a weekend and runners were 11-19 against him.  Martinez was second on the team in HR's and led the team in SLG in 2012.  Another player to keep an eye on is FR #11 Chris Mallon (RH), who is the C of the future with solid defensive skills and some pop in his bat.

1B/DH – SR #27 Dylan Christensen (RH – .244/.349/.333, 1-18-1), FR #10 Chase Gusbeth, FR #25 Nick Vehlewald and Mallon figure to compete for time at these spots with the FR hitters having a good chance to earn some playing time.  Christensen does a solid job of putting the ball in play with a 12/17 BB/K ratio in 2012 and was among the team leaders with 9 HBP's.  He doesn't have much power for a 1B and was second on the team last season with 7 SAC's.  It also wouldn't be a surprise if Brockmeyer and Martinez saw some time as part of the 1B/DH situation to get their bats into the lineup at the same time.

2B – JR #2 Oscar Sanay (RH – .312/.385/.337, 0-25-7.  '11 – .355/.384/.418, 0-34-2) is a three year starter who has been one of the best players on the team the last two seasons, when he led the team in AVG.  Sanay is a little guy who is the engine that makes the offense go with his aggressiveness at the plate and on the bases as one of the few threats to run.  Sanay has very little power and had only five extra base hits (all 2B's) in 2012.  He had a solid 18/25 BB/K ratio in 2012 and also got on base via 7 HBP's.  Sanay has good range but after making 9 errors as a FR he made 14 last season.

SS – JR #22 Tyler Shryock (LH – .276/.346/.378, 2-29-2.  '11 – .244/.304/.299, 1-15-5) is in his third year as part of the double play combo with Sanay.  Shyrock tied for second on the team in RBI last season and has a little pop for a middle infielder but takes a big swing and struck out 39 times in 2012 after striking out 40 times as a FR.  He has solid range but he also saw his error total go up from 13 in 2011 to 22 last season.

3B – FR #24 Mylz Jones (RH) is stepping into the hole in the lineup vacated by DC Legg, brother of former Fullerton 2B Derek Legg.  Jones has been impressive during fall ball and Baseball America listed him among the top five newcomers in the WAC.


Outfield

Bakersfield returned their corner outfielders from 2012 so they are looking to see who will take over for former leadoff hitter and CF Andrew Letourneau.

LF – SR #12 Kevin Younger (LH – .285/.333/.396, 2-29-1.  '11 – .232/.335/.287, 0-18-0) is in his third year as a starter and was among the team leaders in SLG and RBI in 2012.  He will go up to the plate swinging and struck out 47 times as a FR and 50 times last season.

CF and RF – Soph #1 Jordie Hein (LH – .228/.388/.317, 0-8-6) and Soph #20 Garrett Pierce (RH – .156/.244/.208 in 77 AB's) will be battling to see who will play in CF with the other one playing RF.  Hein has the profile of a natural leadoff hitter as a scrappy little guy with good speed and the ability to get on base with a team leading 36 BB's in 2012 along with 11 HBP's.  He doesn't have much power with his extra base hits coming due to hitting the ball into the gaps and using his speed to take extra bases.  Pierce is projected to be much better with regular playing time but if he doesn't produce it wouldn't be a surprise for one of the players in the 1B/DH logjam to be moved to RF.


Pitching

  • ERA – 4.05 (105)
  • AVG – .279 (xx)
  • HR – 23 (xx)
  • H's/9 IP – 9.7 (162)
  • BB's/9 IP – 3.4 (109)
  • K's/9 IP – 6.0 (221)
  • WHIP – 1.46 (147)

Bakersfield has an extremely experienced pitching staff after losing only one starter and having two potential starters returning from injuries that caused them to miss last season.  Kernen has conditioned his starters to pitch deep into games and they routinely throw at least 120 pitches and emphasize pitching to contact.  The Roadrunners led the country over the last two seasons with 33 complete games so they don't rely much on their bullpen.


Starters

SR #3 Jeff McKenzie (LHP – 6-5, 2.67 ERA, 15 GS, 5 CG, 107 IP, 106 H, 37 BB, 69 K, .259 AVG, 5 HR, 6 HBP, 7 WP, 6-10 SB) was a workhorse who led the staff in innings, ERA, K's and CG's and threw over 130 pitches six times in his last nine starts, including a 161 pitch effort in his final start of the season against Utah.  As with most of the pitchers, he is a gamer who pitches to contact and isn't looking to beat hitters with an overpowering fastball.  He was a pre-season All-WAC selection by Perfect Game.

JR #7 Taylor Aikenhead (LHP – 6-3, 3.20 ERA, 10 GS, 5 CG, 59 IP, 56 H, 11 BB, 31 K, .258 AVG, 0 HR, 6 HBP, 1 WP, 7-12 SB) was a threat to throw a complete game every time out but he was injured in his last start in April and missed the last five weeks of the season.  He does a good job of keeping the ball down and has outstanding control.

SR #19 Jonathon Montoya (LHP – Medical redshirt.  '11 – 8-5, 3.67 ERA, 16 GS, 7 CG, 115 IP, 104 H, 48 BB, 86 K, .245 AVG, 5 HR, 18 HBP, 8 WP, 14-19 SB) was a workhorse for the 2011 team that almost qualified for a regional as one of the national leaders in CG's but he missed last season after having Tommy John surgery.  He's not a big guy but he is a tremendous competitor.  Montoya was a pre-season All-WAC selection by Perfect Game.

SR #51 Scott Brattvett (RHP – 6-5, 4.75 ERA, 14 GS, 3 CG, 91 IP, 105 H, 38 BB, 66 K, .293 AVG, 9 HR, 3 HBP, 9 WP, 10-14 SB) throws a little harder than the LHP's but also has a little more trouble with this control and pitches up in the zone a little more, making him more prone to giving up HR's.  Brattvet threw at least 125 pitches in four of his final eight starts.


Relievers

Bakersfield returns their two leaders in appearances from 2012 and also gets two other pitchers back from injuries that have the potential to work their way into being starters.

Soph #30 Hayden Carter (RHP – 1-3, 4.81 ERA, 2 saves, 18 apps, 1 GS, 43 IP, 47 H, 23 BB, 22 K, .288 AVG, 3 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP, 3-4 SB) shared the team lead in appearances and figures to be one of the pitchers most likely to get the ball at the end of the game.  He has control issues and is prone to getting hit when he brings the ball over the plate.

Soph #21 James Barragan (RHP – 0-4, 4.08 ERA, 18 apps, 29 IP, 28 H, 14 BB, 24 K, .259 AVG, 0 HR, 6 HBP, 6 WP, 4-4 SB) shared the team lead in appearances with Carter and would be the other part of the equation to get the ball late in games.

SR #14 Chuck Buchanan (LHP – 1-1, 3.95 ERA, 4 apps, 2 GS, 14 IP, 11 H, 8 BB, 12 K, .216 AVG) is a big guy who has some potential upside but he is working on getting healthy after missing most of last season due to an arm injury in March.

SR #18 Brandon Van Dam (RHP – Medical redshirt.  '11 – 3-0, 1.90 ERA, 4 GS, 1 CG, 24 IP, 20 H, 8 BB, 12 K, .241 AVG) is another big guy with potential upside who threw very well in four starts in 2011 but missed the rest of that season and 2012 due to an arm injury.

JC transfer #26 Josh Rodriguez (LHP) was 9-2 with a 2.56 ERA last season in JC ball and figures to be one of the main guys getting innings in relief after throwing well in the fall.


Outlook

Fullerton is the only team is the four team group playing this weekend that is nationally ranked so they will be favored to win each game but that means they enter this weekend with a bullseye on their backs, especially when the Titans play at Bakersfield because the Roadrunners will be very motivated to make a statement by winning their first game against the perennial power from the conference that wouldn't allow them in. 

Fullerton also has a dubious trend going against them because they haven't finished over .500 in the opening weekend of the season since 2008.  The Titans lost the series at home to TCU in 2009, lost two out of three at home to Oregon, Pepperdine and Long Beach in 2010, split four games with North Carolina and Long Beach in 2011 and lost two out of three at Florida in 2012.  Needless to say, it will be a point of emphasis by the coaching staff to do something about that by getting off to a faster start than their predecessors have.

Fullerton should have more production from a lineup that returns just about every important piece from 2012.  There is plenty of experience with several seniors in the lineup and some of the talented younger players have gotten adjusted to hitting against Division I pitching.  As opposed to the veteran heavy lineup, the Titans will be relying on some talented freshmen and sophomores in the rotation with no upperclassmen among the starting pitching candidates.  Those pitchers could take some lumps this weekend, especially against a strong Nebraska offense, but they have been facing good hitters for a while now in practice so the adjustment shouldn't be that big as long as they stay within themselves and focus on what they can do.

Much of what transpires in these four games will be dependent by how Fullerton comes out and plays.  If the Titans dictate things and play up to their capabilities they should be able to win three out of four games against this group of teams.  If Fullerton has a sluggish effort and plays down to the level of their opponents it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see the Titans split the four games this weekend considering how they have opened the season the last four years.

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