McKenzie earns win for CSU Bakersfield in front of family, friends

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Proving there’s no place like home, California State University, Bakersfield senior Jeff McKenzie pitched in front of family and friends Friday at Sacramento State and he and the visiting Roadrunners came away with a 4-2 victory.

McKenzie threw eight innings, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out seven to earn the win.

McKenzie, 21, graduated from Oak Ridge in 2009 and is having an outstanding senior season for the Roadrunners. The win over Sac State improves his record to 5-1 and adds to impressive list of appearances this season. McKenzie entered the game coming off a pair of complete game shutouts over Davis (11-0, March 8) and Northern Colorado (12-0, March 15) which earned him back-to-back Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week awards.

His only loss this season came Feb. 22 in a 1-0 defeat against Hofstra.

“The season is going pretty well,” McKenzie said. “We’re starting to gel as a team and we’ve got the best non-conference record of all the teams in our league. I’m pitching well too and hopefully I can keep the magic going.”

McKenzie predominately throws a fastball, which tops off in the high 80s, a curveball and change up. He also routinely works in a cut fastball, slider and knuckleball.

“I’ve upgraded the arsenal with the cutter, slider and knuckleball,” McKenzie said. “Last weekend, I threw all six pitches effectively during the game. When all else fails, I go to my curveball. That’s my best pitch. I’m definitely not a power pitcher, but I’ve learned to locate my pitches and let guys get themselves out.”

The key to his success so far this season is staying within himself, McKenzie said.

“I did OK early in the season, but I didn’t pitch how I’m capable of pitching. These last two (complete game shutouts) I stayed within myself, not trying to do too much and just let my ability take care of itself.”

Bakersfield coach, Bill Kernen, has been impressed with McKenzie's performance this season and last.

"Jeff has been a consistent, top-level performer for us the past two years, mainly due to his ability to command three pitches regardless of count or game situation."

McKenzie enjoyed the opportunity to pitch in front of family and friends.

“It’s an awesome experience,” he said. “It’s nice to have friends and family there to support me. It’s like a home game for me.”

McKenzie has several goals this season. With CSU Bakersfield, he hopes to win a league championship and make the playoffs, while individually, he would like to finish the season with an earned run average below 2.00, earn a lot of wins and end his season by being selected in the Major League Baseball draft.

“I’ve got a few teams interested in me and I’ve been pitching well and that’s always good, so I think I’ve got a good chance to be drafted,” McKenzie said.