Defense and pitching cost the Gators their Thursday, April 18 series-opener against the Cal State Monterey Bay Otters and their overdue return to Maloney Field.

This was the first game the Gators have played at Maloney Field since the team’s Feb. 12 doubleheader against Simpson University.

With several SF State pitchers unavailable, Gators head coach Tony Schifano gave freshman Ryan Nabas the first start of his college career. After two quick outs to start the game, Nabas walked the next two batters, then second baseman Jackson Kritsch fielded a routine ground ball and overthrew Harley Lopez at first base, which scored the two runners and gave the Otters an early 2-0 lead.

SF State answered in their half of the opening frame with a Lopez single that drove in Kritsch to cut the Otters’ lead in half.

After both teams went down the order in the second inning, Nabas returned to the mound in the third but struggled to find the strike zone. The freshman walked the first two batters and another error scored two runs, a throwing error by third baseman Brady Dorn. Schifano then made a call to the bullpen to put in Daniel Jimenez. The Otters tacked on two runs to give them a 6-1 lead after three.

Nabas finished the day allowing one hit, five walks and four runs which were unearned in two innings of work. The Brentwood native was disappointed with his performance in his first college start.

“I really didn’t pitch the way I wanted to. I could’ve thrown a lot more strikes and get ahead in the count,” Nabas said. “I didn’t have it today, hopefully, I’ll have it next time.”

The Gators began to crawl back in the fourth, Lopez lead off the inning with a single and Trevor Rogers hit a single following a Riley Cleary strikeout. After a Johan Gonzalez strikeout, shortstop Shaq Robinson stepped to the plate with two outs. Robinson swung at a ball in the dirt for strike three but Otters catcher Bo Boisvert sailed the throw to first, scoring Lopez and Rogers as Robinson advanced to third on the dropped third strikeout. Monterey Bay lead 6-3 going into the fifth.

Otters’ first baseman Brian Morley drove a deep fly ball to left field for a solo home run in the fifth. After an RBI triple by Dorn in the fifth and a Jason Hare RBI single in the sixth, the Gators shrunk the lead to 7-5.

Errors continued to plague the Gators, Dorn mishandled a hard-hit ground ball by the Otters’ leadoff hitter T.J. Dove. Dove stole second base and subsequently scored off a Kyle Dean single. Dean also stole second base and was driven in by a Morley single to give the Otters a 9-5.

The Gators were able to cut the lead to 9-8 after Roger hit a three-run home run to drive in Lopez and Cleary. This was Rogers’ fourth home run of the season.

Rogers looked forward to coming back to Maloney Field after two months, but the team has to perform better.

“We didn’t play very well from the start if we play well we win that game,” Rogers said. “You can take it two ways. You can take it that we played bad and we lost, or you can take it that we played bad and we were still in that game.”

SF State struggled to shut down Monterey Bay after scoring runs. The Otters added two more in the eighth for a final score of 11-8. In the five innings the Gators scored in, only twice were they able to stop the Otters from scoring in the following inning.

A frustrated Schifano was not happy with how his team kept letting the opposition increase their lead.

“It’s happened all year, every time we score we give up runs, whether it’s our defense or our pitching,” Schifano said. “It’s an epidemic that has haunted us the entire season.”

Monterey Bay overtook SF State as the second-place team in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) standings. The series continues on Friday with a doubleheader at Maloney Field at 12 p.m. and the series finale on Saturday, also at 12 p.m.